I spend a lot of time coaching owners, managers, trainers, and frontline professionals on how to positively handle people who aren’t living up to expectations. It can be so frustrating when people don’t do what we want them to do, what we need them to do, what we expect them to do.
Most of our frustration comes from a lack of control over what other people do or don’t do. And, we truly don’t have control over that. So, what do we do? How can we have a positive and productive impact on the behaviors of others?
I’ve found it helpful to ask myself four questions:
1) Clarity: Are they crystal clear about my expectation?
We are often quick to answer this question affirmatively, but be extra careful here. We frequently think we’ve been clear with others but until they can repeat an expectation back to us correctly, we really don’t know if they actually do understand the expectation, why it is important, or the level of non-negotiability about it.
2) Skill: Do they have the skills they need to accomplish it?
I once coached a manager with an employee whom she deemed to be highly disorganized. She established that the employee understood the expectation but discovered she did not possess the skill set to get and stay organized. I helped her locate some specific training for her, and she saw immediate and consistent improvement thereafter.
3) Capacity: Are they physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of meeting the expectation?
On another occasion, I coached a new practice owner who had inherited an assistant who was in her late 60’s. She had been quite capable of keeping up with the pace of the retiring doctor but was struggling to physically adhere to the pace of the new one. She was clear and well-trained, but she did not have the physical capability to adequately manage the higher expectation. I’ve also seen similar incompatibility with employees in charge of some financial aspect of a business who are not capable of the mathematical accuracy required for bookkeeping or statistical analysis. If this is your challenge, be sure to consult an HR specialist as to the best way to reassign or replace this employee.
4) Willingness: Are they willing to comply with the expectation?
This may be the most challenging of all. Are they willing to do it? Sometimes, we’ve uncovered employees who just flat don’t agree with the way the company has decided to do things and therefore feel justified in refusing to do it that way. Other times, they have passive-aggressive or negative attitudes which cause them to buck the system and essentially refuse to comply. Again, if you’ve checked off the first three questions and find yourself on number 4, consult an HR specialist as to the best way to handle the refusal to comply.
I believe these questions are useful in both professional and personal situations. Is your spouse actually clear about what you need or expect? How do you know? Have you walked your child through the steps of the chore you expect them to complete? Are they physically, emotionally, or intellectually capable of complying, or are they simply not willing to do it?
Or what about an employee’s conversation about the expectations of their job? Have you been clear with your employer about what you expect in terms of your career development, aspirations, or work environment? Have you provided a way to accomplish these that work for both of you? Is your boss (or the business) capable of fulfilling what you need, or are they willing to even consider what you require?
All of these questions beg different answers and solutions and are helpful in determining how you can best manage and lead them to successful outcomes. Take control of what you can control and stop spending time and energy on what you can’t. Help those you are in a relationship with to meet the necessary requirements or transition to a place where the requirements will suit them better.
“Coaches know that for the future to be different, we need to change the way we do things in the present. More often, change involves shifts in attitudes, thinking, perceptions, and behavior.”
~ Gary Collins, Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality