Have You Defined Expected Behaviors?

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Organizations need to know how you expect them to behave. When a leader fails to clarify expected behaviors, productivity is going to take a hit. Lack of or unclear behavior expectations produce an organization where:

  • Members are unable to make decisions on their own because it is unclear what the boss wants.
  • Individual definitions of expected behavior prevail, resulting in misaligned and uncoordinated actions between its members.

In contrast, when you clarify and enforce expected behavior, an organization is empowered to make decisions and implement them. For the leader, clarifying expectations is a three-step process:

  1. Define
  2. Communicate
  3. Enforce

Let’s focus on the first step, defining expectations. You need a handful of fundamental principles that describe how you want the organization to behave. You need some simple but powerful concepts that will guide the organization to conduct itself consistent with your desires. Here are nine ideas for possible expected behaviors to get you started.

1. Customer Cadence

This principle is for the leader who wants the organization to operate at a pace that matches customer demands, not internal convenience. By setting deadlines and goals that will satisfy customers, you’ll establish an external perspective in your organization.

2. Be Leaders, Not Victims

Things are done to victims. Leaders get things done. With this principle, you’re telling the organization that the phrase “They won’t let me.” is an unacceptable excuse for not achieving a goal. You’re making it clear that you expect individuals to take it upon themselves to bust through barriers to success.

3. Attack Issues, Not People

Here you’re telling the organization that you expect them to attack problems with a high level of energy and passion. However, you are also saying, be respectful and stay away from the blame game.

4. Instead of “No,” Give Me Options

This one encourages out-of-the-box thinking when faced with a seemingly impossible problem. Instead of throwing in the towel, you expect members to come up with options, even if those options go outside traditional boundaries.

5. Team Play

These two simple words communicate that you expect people to work together to solve problems and meet the organization’s objectives. Good team members fulfill their roles, offer and ask for help, and treat each other respectfully.

6. Never be Satisfied

A competitor will eventually overtake an organization that doesn’t improve. “Never be satisfied” is a high tension way to communicate your expectation for continuous improvement.

7. It’s Not A Plan Until It’s Written Down

This principle is for the leader that wants a disciplined organization and a culture of accountability. Having one’s intentions reduced to writing has a way of producing more thoughtful commitments and consistent results.

8. Hidden Problems Cannot be Fixed

This principle is for you if you subscribe to the fundamental philosophy that we’re all hired to solve problems. It’s a version of the clichéd open-door policy. It says you expect the organization to reveal rather than hide problems. It’s the only way they can fix them.

9. Triage Priority: Installed Base, Current Orders, New Orders, then R&D

How do you want members of the organization to act if it is confronted with a crisis when they cannot resolve a resource conflict? While your triage priority may be different than this section heading suggests, your organization needs to know what you expect it to do when it cannot do everything at once.

Use these nine ideas as thought-starters to help you define your behavior expectations. Once you have decided what your expectations are, get them before your organization and demonstrate that you’ll enforce them.