When I work with leaders and employees that are experiencing frustration, stress, and poor results, it often is the result of insufficient expectation setting and poor ongoing communication. But within these situations there is still those that excel and often get promoted – WHY? Because they are proactive and take responsibility to get the feedback needed to ensure they are on track and meeting expectations. You can too with these 5 simple steps.
Step 1- Confirm Expectations:
The best way to set yourself up for success is to get those expectations up front. Get a clear picture of what you are expected to accomplish, what the output should look like, and by when. Also determine the resources or other people that your results are dependent on. If you only get this verbally, follow up with an e-mail summarizing your conversation.
Step 2 – Things change:
Change is the only constant so check in regularly. Confirm that the objectives are still what is expected of you. Make sure to ask if any additional priorities have been added or are coming up. Most managers communicate these things but, when they are busy, updates get missed and you’re the one who wastes a week or two in the wrong direction – so take responsibility to check in. Use e-mail to follow up any discussions, changes or new agreements.
Step 3 – Ask for feedback:
Again busy managers may not realize how much time has passed and will just assume you’re on track. If you have been left on your own make sure that you reach out for feedback. Send a weekly e-mail update and include: where you are relative to goals, a sample of your work requesting direct feedback, or summarize your metrics and ask if they meet the mark. Also ask directly if he/she is aware of any areas you could improve in. Don’t wait for a formal review, it may be too late – be proactive. All managers appreciate employees who take responsibility for their success.
Step 4 – Taking in Feedback
What if the feedback is negative and your manager is not happy with your work? Well, thankfully you have asked early on and are being proactive. If you had not been proactive and your manager finally delivered negative feedback on his/her own terms, most likely he would be frustrated, targets will have been missed, and she would be under pressure. This puts you in a negative light.
When receiving feedback, your job is to listen (not defend). Ask clarifying questions and practice active listening (feeding back your understanding in your own words). Listen first to be heard later. Confirm what you will be changing and repeat this in an e-mail follow up. If you have had challenges, make sure you present these in a constructive way (not in a victim or blaming manner). Constructive means to define the problem, identify the impact, and suggest potentials resolutions.
Step 5 – Ask for support
If you are not meeting targets or see that you are not progressing as needed, determine what additional training, coaching, or mentoring could be of value to you. This may be as simple as asking for it or it may require a cost benefit proposal. A faster way might be to ask your peers for help. If your environment is more competitive with a ‘swim or sink culture’, so make sure you present your request in a constructive way that refers to the benefit. For example, “I am confident that I can meet my targets if I could shadow Jane to see how she handles X call that I am new at”, or “John is top in this area, it would be great if he could do a training on XYZ so we can all have his results” or “I would like to be faster at completing X, could you walk me through how you do it?”.
When you take responsibility for your success and
- clarify expectations,
- provide updates and adaptations,
- ask for feedback,
- and proactively get the support you need,
you will be the person a manager really appreciates on their team. You will also have greater success, less stress, and increase your opportunity for advancement.
In addition to the above benefits you are setting an example for your peers to help create a more positive, constructive work environment and filling your bucket of grace so that, if you mess up, as we all do at some time, your manager will more than likely see your mistake as just a hiccup in your good record and not the beginning of a write up or termination.
Best of success to you!