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February 23, 2012

Workplace Diet: Being Clear About Your Expectations

describe the imageThe focus of our collective workplace diet this month is expectations – how can you ensure you’re setting them effectively, knowing people most often rise to the expectations set for them?

My daughter, Avi, just turned 2.  I can’t believe how fast time has flown.  She’s talking up a storm and is very much into Dress Up.  This past Halloween she decided she wanted to Trick or Treat, but not in a costume.  I thought we were well prepared with several choices (who doesn’t like choices?): clown, pink crayon, or Super Girl.  Avi wasn’t wearing a costume.  Period.

No problem.  Her first real Halloween was nonetheless a ton of fun, and a big hit in her eyes.

Flash forward a few months and we have a chest of costumes, including my favorite so far, the pirate costume.  You’ve never heard such a hearty “Aaaaargh.”  Last week she added, “Shiver me timbers!!” along with what I can only describe as a classic pirate gesture.  Priceless.

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She’s understanding more and more concepts, and I’ve started using the phrase “which means” a lot. “I appreciated your compliment,” I’d say to her, “which means ….when you say something kind and genuine about someone.”  I want to ensure she knows what compliment means so I define it for her.

 “Which means…” is a great phrase leaders can use, too, as they’re setting expectations and defining terminology. 

For example, “When you’re at the table with leadership, you can’t be passive.   I expect you to add value, which means ….demonstrating you’re engaged with your body language, providing a strategic point-of-view that’s focused on the business outcome, and helping advance the discussion.”

We often throw around terms and expect that others define them in the same way we do, and/or we share our expectations without fully articulating what it takes to meet our expectations.  Instead of being disappointed and saying our own version of “Aaaaargh,” we’ve set our teams up for success.  And chances are, they will rise beautifully to the occasion.

What might you need to be more specific about?   Could “which means” be a helpful phrase that leads to a better definition of what you expect?


- David Grossman



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