3 Expectations Leaders Should Have of Themselves and Their People

Great Expectations (1999 film)

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I’m about to enter a new job for the umpteenth time and once again find myself reflecting on the key messages I want to tell my direct reports.  My routine on day one is to introduce myself and provide my new organization with an overview of my background, personal values, pet peeves and expectations.  I’ve found that being upfront, especially with expectations, saves heartache later on.   Plus, it provides a great opportunity for self-reflection.

As the years go by my intro brief keeps getting shorter and tighter each time.  Part of the reason is that I’ve realized how quickly people tune out in briefings, but more importantly I believe I’ve honed in on what’s most important.

Fundamental Expectations

1. Know your job

Whether you’re a front line laborer or a senior leader, nobody should know your job better than you.  This means you understand the technical details of what you do, how you fit in the broader picture, and what your goals/objectives are for a given time period.  It doesn’t matter where you are on the proverbial corporate ladder the fundamental nature of knowing your job is the same.  The only difference lies in the magnitude of responsibility.

2. Work together

With very few exceptions, we all count on others to help us achieve our goals and objectives.  Consequently, we need to pay close attention to who we count on, who counts on us, and the health of these relationships.  I’m the first to get frustrated with people who I like to call “slow leaks” and often have to remind myself that without their support I cannot succeed.  Building relationships and working together are critical to an individual and organization’s success.

3. No surprises 

Nobody likes surprises, especially when it’s bad news.  Not your customers, not your boss, and, certainly, not Wall Street.  My experience is that people can handle bad news, but they need time to prepare for the impacts and disruptions associated with it.  The aphorism that, “bad news doesn’t get better with age” is spot on and as hard as it is sometimes it’s better to spill the beans early.

When things go bad I often ask myself and/or the individual(s) involved with the failure which of the three expectations we failed to observe.  Without exception, I’ve found every failure to fit in one of these categories.  Perhaps this is an indication they are too broad.  On the other hand, it might indicate just how fundamental these expectations are to an organization’s success and the reason I’ve honed my long list of expectations from 20 years ago down to these three fundamentals.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “3 Expectations Leaders Should Have of Themselves and Their People

    • Thanks for asking Ralph. Until last month I spent my career on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and, like most military officers, I changed jobs every 18 months to 3 years. There are pros and cons to this approach of personnel management. On the con side the organization experiences constant turnover, but on the positive side the senior leaders end up with broad background of experiences and tend to really understand what it’s like to be in the trenches.

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