Leadership can be very frustrating. “I’ve told them that 5 times already,” Peter said exasperated. “There really is no excuse for my leadership team not to know what our strategy is and which goals we are focused on.”
Yet, they didn’t. After talking to several of them, I discovered that they all had different ideas of what the priorities were, based on their own observations. The reasons stretched from missing meetings, putting out fires and being buried in e-mails, to receiving mixed messages from their leadership.
My conversation with Peter quickly went to expectations, clarity and accountability. Messages can be repeated, and need to be repeated numerous times in order to drive a change. In addition, the message needs to be reinforced.
The Message–What does leadership want to say?
How many times do you need to repeat a message before it becomes rote for your intended audience? Some say a message needs to be repeated 18 times in the social media culture that we find ourselves existing in today. You’ve got to get creative about how you incorporate messaging in your culture, if you want the attention of your team, and you want them to be able to repeat the message. Sending 18 e-mails with the same message is probably not going to do it. Here are some other ideas:
- Craft the message using your team. People are much more bought in to something when they’ve had some input.
- Announce the message at a company wide event. Give the message the level of attention it deserves and it will trickle down from there.
- If you have a physical office, print the message on posters and hang throughout the work area. A visual message will get daily attention.
- Create a game around the message. Send out a fill in the blank worksheet related to the message and offer a small prize for correct entries.
- Start every meeting with the message, and ask others to be ready to read it out loud.
- Craft a complete business plan with vision, mission, goals, strategies and action plans with your team.
- Reinforce the message utilizing your prize staff members as the first adopters in spreading, reciting, and reinforcing the message.
Expectations-Leadership must define
When expectations are not met, conflict occurs. Most of the time, expectations are not met, because they were not clear. I doubt that Peter’s leadership team was intentionally ignoring his communications on strategy and goals. No one starts their day wondering “how can I ignore my bosses expectations of me today?” Most people want to do a good job, and they fall short when it’s not clear what success looks like. When pressed, Peter delivered his vision of success:
- Every Leadership Team member will attend the next Leadership Team Meeting ready to discuss every goal for 2018. In addition, they will discuss how each goal applies to our strategy, and how their team is contributing to it.
- Most importantly, each Leadership Team member will work with their team to develop team goals which align to our strategy. Those team goals will be delivered (with due dates) by January 15.
Clarity-Leadership must provide
It was time to work on the clarity of the message and expectations. The message could still be misinterpreted.
- What was the format for delivery of the sub-team goals? Would that be an email, a report, or something verbal?
- How much information is needed for the discussion of the goals? What level of detail? Did budgets need to be discussed with each item, or just a high level overview?
- Do reporting and goal setting have a template we should follow?
- Goals should be sent to whom? Is it directly to Peter, to the team, or to the administrative assistant?
Peter’s vision of success could be quite different from one of his team members. When outlining expectations, be crystal clear on what the successful outcome will look like.
Accountability-Leadership must take action
Accountability is typically where we all fall short, because no one wants to ask their colleague why they failed to deliver on time. Yet, if we want to be a successful team, we need to have that conversation. If there is no accountability, the process tends to fall apart and demotivation ensues as a result.
According to the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, avoidance of accountability leads to low standards as an organization. Therefore, instead of thinking of accountability as an awkward conflict conversation, think of it as raising your standards and accelerating your success.
Peter is now better equipped to reinforce the right messages with clear expectations. He is also actively creating a culture of accountability in order to raise the standards of the organization.
How are you improving your leadership by reinforcing expectations, clarity and accountability in your team?
Contact us if you want help with your communication, setting expectations and accountability.
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