Set Expectations Early to Shape Success

Linda Dulye's picture

Which Way.jpgIn a recent interview, Nancy McKinstry, the C.E.O. and chairwoman of the executive board of Wolters Kluwer, a global information services and publishing company based in the Netherlands, shared one of her most profound management lessons gleaned from managing junior-level employees:

“… I quickly realized these folks were eager to please, very bright, but had literally no business experience. So my first lesson was to be very clear upfront about what I wanted because if I didn’t say, “I want you to go off and do these five things,” I might not get back what I needed.”

We work today at a pace that requires nimble thinking and fast action to meet our organizational goals. Sometimes, though, in our effort to get more done with less we try to skip steps, often leading to missed expectations and time-consuming re-work. Avoid by giving clear direction when delegating tasks or assigning projects.

McKinstry learned quickly from her colleagues in Holland that getting clarity upfront is the key ingredient.

“[W]hat I’ve learned in Holland is that if you invest a lot of time upfront to explain what you’re trying to accomplish, get people’s feedback, then when they do say yes, the time to implementation is really fast. But if you don’t invest that time up front, you’re going to get such resistance that you’ll never get to the end.”

Are you finding that your employees’ assignments are missing the mark, even slightly? If so, take stock of how you give direction and set expectations. Can you be clearer in your instructions? Do your employees feel comfortable coming back to you for more direction? Investing this time upfront is the best move you can make.


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