Setting Clear Expectations

“All good performance begins with clear goals,” is one of Ken Blanchard’s favorite sayings.  For years he has encouraged managers and their direct reports to take the time to agree on, and write down the 3-5 most important goals that each team member should be working on during the coming year.  It’s one of those simple pieces of advice that most people know they should be doing, but don’t ever quite turn into action.


At least that’s what I thought as I was looking through a small management book on my shelf entitled, Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do and What to Do About It.  Written by management consultant Ferdinand Fournies, the book is based on years of research and interviews with thousands of employees. The book is still available online and in bookstores though it was originally published in 1988.  I was reading the updated version published in 1998 which made it on the business best-seller list that year.


In the book, Fournies identifies the sixteen reasons why employees get off-track.  In a descending order of frequency he shares all of the hidden influences that affect performance.  Here’s the top three.  :


  1. They don’t know why they should do it.
  2. They don’t know how to do it.
  3. They don’t know what they are supposed to do.


For managers looking to open up a conversation about performance with a direct report, these three areas can be a great starting place.  Just be sure to reverse the order of these three questions.  Ask yourself:


  1. Does this employee know what they are supposed to be doing?  (You might be surprised if you compare priority lists.)
  2. Does this employee have the skills, tools, and direction they need to succeed at this task?  (In other words, what’s their development level?) 
  3. And then finally, does the employee understand why this work is important? (Has it been connected to overall team, department, and organizational priorities?)


2 thoughts on “Setting Clear Expectations

  1. If goals change are we clearly communicating this to our staff? That’s when their understanding of what they are supposed to do, how they are supposed to do it and why they should do it become unclear.

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