Setting Realistic Expectations: Leading From The Front
“If you expect perfection from other people, your whole life is a series of disappointments, grumbling, and complaints. If, on the contrary, you pitch your expectations low, taking folks as the inefficient creatures which they are, you are frequently surprised by having them perform better than you had hoped.”
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the whole scenario of how millions of businesses, both small and large, approach work under unexpected circumstances.
As millions of employees switched to full-time remote work during the pandemic, many of them had to deal with the new pressure of dealing with unrealistic expectations from their leaders.
One of the downsides of remote working is that some managers and employers begin to get suspicious of their employees’ activities when not under direct supervision, like in regular office environments.
They believe that their employees are not making most of their time while working from home, and are not as productive. And this is where the trouble starts for remote employees.
Just to make sure that they don’t become relaxed while working from home, team managers and leaders begin to allocate them more work than they could handle. This is called adding unnecessary pressure on your remote workers in the name of making them more productive.
While you may think that as a leader, you are keeping a check on your remote employees by assigning them more work than usual so they don’t take things easy, the fact is that this approach only magnifies the lack of trust between both sides.
As the CEO of ProofHub, I feel immense pride and satisfaction in claiming that we have successfully navigated the rough waters of enforced lockdown and a sudden shift to remote work without any hassle or even a single team member complaining about burnout.
How did we make this happen? The answer is not difficult to find out — Mutual trust and seamless communication.
I knew that switching to remote work is not going to be easy for my team as it’s going to take some time for them to adjust to a new work environment. It’s not that I didn’t have the term productivity at the back of my mind but I trusted my team to deliver the goods.
At ProofHub, we don’t let vague assumptions and suspicions ruin the employer-employee relationship.
Your employees are the most precious assets of your organization. You may be setting unrealistic performance expectations from them (intentionally or unconsciously), and this can take a toll on their mental and physical health.
If you are one of those responsible leaders who care for his/her employees like a family, you would want them to be at their best to give their best.
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I’ve put together a list of some proven steps for leaders that can help them to set realistic expectations from their employees without overburdening them.
Yes, establishing expectations is important because your employees should know what it takes to achieve success. The key for leaders is to understand their employees’ capabilities as well as limitations.
Read on to know how to get the best out of your remote employees without acting like a ringmaster.
- Analyze Past Performance
You cannot expect someone to double their output all of a sudden without assessing their past performance and capabilities. Some leaders think that they can give more work to remote employees because the latter have more time in their hands (minus commuting). This is a trap that many leaders fall into.
You have to keep track of the productivity of every employee that works for you. Past performance is a strong factor that helps leaders in determining what type of and how much work should be set for a particular team member. You cannot pull numbers out of a hat and say — “Do this and that by a certain date and time.”
2. Ask Them What They Expect Of You
If you’re an inspiring leader for your workforce, you have to know that expectations are a two-way street. It means that a leader should also let employees know that you’d like to hear about their expectations of you before you go about setting performance expectations from them.
Encouraging your employees to express their expectations of the senior leadership regarding proper training, support, a positive work environment, and regular feedback can go a long way in helping you ensure that they have the best tools, environment, and leadership to achieve expected results.
3. Define Expectations Clearly (for you and your team)
It’s next to impossible to clearly define your expectations to your team unless you, as a leader, haven’t defined these to yourself. It can also be that you are clear about your expectations of your team but unable to lay them down explicitly because you don’t want to appear like an authoritarian.
Write down your expectations in simple language and communicate them to your team. You can use a tool like ProofHub to create a note and share with your team members; they can even collaborate on the note and share their views as well. Once your employees have read these, check if they have understood them or have any doubts that you can clear for them.
If you are unable to define your performance expectations verbally or in writing, it means that you still have unclarity over them.
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4. Let Your Employees Know WHY
Your employees need to know why they need to do what they’re doing and how it matters to them and the organization as a whole. Providing your employees with the context and vindication of expectations will help to make them accountable for their actions to achieve those expectations.
When you make your employees see a bigger picture, you are likely to gain their support. They will know what is expected of them and will have a clear goal to work towards. Let them know that the quality of work delivered by them directly influences the company’s standing in the marketplace as well creates a positive (or negative impression) in the clients’ mind.
5. Provide Your Team With Adequate Resources To Do The Job
You cannot expect your team to do what’s been dished out on their plates without adequate training, timely information, tools and equipment, and support. Lack of resources hampers the team’s ability to do their work, so it becomes crucial that companies and leaders support their teams with the required resources to achieve set goals.
Also, all team members must clearly understand who is to do what with the help of smart task management. Clear distribution of responsibilities ensures there is no misunderstanding regarding job responsibilities, and people take responsibility for their actions.
In the days of remote working when the work-life balance has become near invisible, it’s easy for leaders to think of their teams as work machines who can get more done from the comfort of their home.
However, this could backfire and result in poor team morale, low productivity, poor collaboration, and cold relations with each other. I’m sure you would not want this to happen to your high-performing team otherwise.
Remaining flexible is the key here. Analyze what your team is capable of and assign work accordingly to each member, based on their skills and strengths. Setting clear and realistic expectations is a sure-fire way to get the best results out of your team without taking exhausting them both mentally and physically.
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Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on the lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, “Let’s go!” instead of “Go!” many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.