Have you ever put a system in place, waited excitedly for the results, and then nothing happened? We’ve all been there, and it’s tempting to blame your team for not meeting your expectations. After all, you told them what to do over and over again, so surely it’s on them, right? I find that whenever there’s a failure in meeting expectations, there’s usually one common denominator, and it’s rarely the team member; the real issue is you as a leader. It’s about clarity, and your ability to communicate your expectations. If you’re tired of your expectations going unmet after repeating yourself, it’s time to think about how to grow as a leader and help your team.
Expectations vs. Reality
The equation E-R=C, or Expectations Minus Reality Equals Conflict, governs just about every interaction in your practice. When your expectations fail to meet realty, there’s conflict, and the bigger the gap between expectation and reality, the bigger the conflict. We often fail to ask people if they understand what our expectation of them is, and this is a big gap. We can’t engage in “drive-by communication” and expect a team member to understand what to do; they might hear about five percent of what you say when you’re moving quickly. You need to slow down and ask your team questions to make sure you’re getting your point across:
- Did you hear clearly?
- Do you have what you need to do this?
- When is it going to be done?
You want to get people thinking, so it’s important to ask questions and engage the higher brain functions. Make sure you were clear in your communication and tie your expectation to a time frame, so it helps your team build habits. This may be a task that you’ve done a hundred times, but it could be the first time for the team member, so make sure your instructions are clear. Whenever I want expectations and reality to align, I overcommunicate my expectations so the team member can move forward confidently. Remember, their success is your success, so it serves both of you to have open, honest communication.
If you want to communicate well, remember one of Kirk’s favorite sayings: “If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist.” Writing allows for reproduction of results, and when it comes to communication, it encourages retention. Because talking is actually one of the worst forms of communication, the average adult has to hear something seven times before it sticks. When communication goes through the eyes, however, it’s four times more likely to be retained. When we write something, it creates an agreement with our brain; similarly, reading or watching engages it. I like to use Loom to take screen recordings so I can walk team members through a process and not worry about anything being lost to miscommunication.
We like to say that communication is the responsibility of the sender, so think about what happened in the process that caused you to communicate unclearly. Before you point the finger, turn the thumb; diagnose the problem by starting with yourself. When you talk with your team to figure out what went wrong, make sure to listen to them. You’re listening to hear and understand, not to respond. If a team member needs more clarification and you’re not listening, you’re not going to solve that problem.
We always want to look externally at what the issue is and place blame on others because it’s easier. The hard thing is looking at yourself and understanding that you need to grow and change. You can tell your team what you want done over and over again, but if you’re not communicating your expectations well, or if a team member doesn’t understand, then you’re just wasting your breath. If you want successful communication, you need clarity. Reach out to the team at ACT and let us help you bring clarity and improve your leadership skills. Kirk says that “Way more important than any procedure you’ll do is communicating with the people that make it happen;” it’s the key to you having a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Jenni Poulos is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT.