A simple way to set expectations

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This past week I met with a business owner who had recently made a senior level hire. The new guy had only been on the job for a couple of weeks, but already the owner was feeling uneasy about his new hire.

“I don’t think he’s gaining the respect of his team,” he lamented. Plus, he’s been late already, and I just don’t have a good feeling about this situation.

Since I’m the coach of the business, I agreed to sit down with the new guy and have a “reality talk.” Here’s how this one, and most others, should look:

Let them “empty out.”

People come into meetings like a full glass of water. You can’t pour anything into a glass that’s already full. They have to empty out. So, I asked him about his first few days, his views of the team, what he enjoyed about the job and so on. We made a little connection.

Share the 3 rules for every new hire

Get them out of the way immediately. The longer you wait to set expectations, the harder/worse it gets to bring up concerns. Establish ground rules and expectations on day one. Once they’re out of the way, he has the expectation that we’re going to have frequent talks about how things are going. The rules I shared with him were:

  1. It’s not about you or me – it’s about the mission. The good of the company and our clients
  2. We expect growth from everyone, both personally and professionally
  3. I’m going to tell you right away if I see things going off track. And I’ll try to catch you doing things right too

Tell them “your story”

I began by telling him that I wanted him to win and be a big success. Then I simply told him honestly and kindly some of the concerns that I’d been hearing. I didn’t assume what I’d been hearing was true, but wanted him to know stories that had filtered back to me so we could talk about them and get the situation back on track. Because I want him to win. I’m in his corner. I’m for him. I’m an ally, wanting to help him succeed.

Ask for his story

He immediately brought up the concerns about lateness. His explanation was plausible. He said that he didn’t realize that he was being negatively perceived, and that he was really happy to know so he could something about it.

Discuss “the commits”

His commits were that he was going to be early from now on, and earn trust by being the best worker on the team. Will he work out in the role? I don’t know, that’s really up to him. But now he knows where he stands and what he has to do in order to win.

The longer you wait to have these discussions, the worse everything gets. If you have the discussion in 3 months after you feel concerned, he feels blindsided. “Why didn’t you say something?” he (rightfully asks).

Set the tone early and everything gets much easier. Don’t wait, do it today!

Getting ahead is about getting started.

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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