Give the Gift of High Expectations

If you’re a small business CEO who struggles with holding employees accountable for their work, you’re not alone. When The Predictive Index released its 2022 Annual CEO Benchmarking Report, 49% of participating CEOs admitted that employee performance and productivity was their biggest concern.

Setting high expectations

Many leaders worry that holding someone accountable could encourage them to leave their position or create tension in the workplace. Fortunately, there’s good news. Enforcing high expectations doesn’t lead to an employee quitting if handled without confrontation or punishment. Instead, maintaining a culture of accountability can actually help your employees and company reach its full potential.

Small business CEOs tend to underestimate the frequency that their employees encounter uncertainty about knowing what to do next. This absence of a well-defined blueprint not only negatively impacts employee productivity but also burdens managers with time-consuming distractions. Naturally, this is a predicament no leader wishes to confront.

By establishing high expectations for your employees, you can foster an environment that encourages autonomy and equips individuals to tackle unexpected challenges on their own. This approach helps employees make the most of their time while also nurturing the growth of your workforce’s capacity for making informed decisions at higher levels. Undoubtedly, these qualities hold tremendous value for your company and contribute to the future career prospects of your employees.

Benefits of High Expectations for Both Employers and Employees

As a forward-thinking leader, navigating the challenges of holding your team accountable can be a difficult task. However, it is crucial to maintain a firm hand and keep sight of the numerous benefits that arise from upholding high expectations. By delving into these benefits, you can further strengthen your resolve and foster an environment of growth and success.

Benefit #1: Expectations provide guidance and boost performance

When expectations act as a guide, employees have a clear roadmap of their tasks and priorities, what to do, and how to do it. This ensures that they stay focused on their daily tasks or long-term projects and don’t waste their time on things that don’t matter. When everyone stays on track, it can help businesses successfully reach the two goals that almost all leaders aim for: a team that seamlessly works together and enhanced productivity.

Benefit #2: Employees take ownership of their responsibilities

Once you provide employees with clear guidelines and a hierarchy of important tasks, they can prioritize and plan these tasks accordingly. This ensures that workers spend their energy on the most impactful tasks first. Clear guidelines will also let your team know what’s expected of them, and people who move within a framework tend to develop a greater sense of ownership of their work. The residual benefits include efficiency, fewer mistakes, and employees who are more proactive and invested in the company.

Benefit #3: Employees feel more committed

When people know exactly what they’re expected to achieve, they’re more engaged with their work and loyal to the company. Employees who respond well to accountability are often driven by a momentum created by themselves. They realize their high-level contributions are valued, so they’re motivated to keep up the good work.

Benefit #4: Training opportunities are easily identifiable

Sometimes, a team member doesn’t perform well because they lack the necessary resources or training. Clear expectations make identifying which employees need support, guidance, or coaching much easier. This is a significant benefit, as a better-trained workforce yields greater performance and employee satisfaction.

Business leader motivating employees

3 Tips for Setting High Expectations Effectively

As you can see, establishing high expectations for your employees is a powerful leadership tool that can propel your organization to new heights. However, effectively setting these expectations requires more than just dictating directives. It necessitates a thoughtful and strategic approach that fosters growth, clarity, and a sense of purpose among your workforce.

By following these three key tips, you can navigate the intricacies of setting high expectations with finesse, empowering your employees to exceed their potential and driving your organization toward success. Let’s explore these strategies in more detail.

1. Approach the conversation correctly

Conversations on accountability should never be a “me versus you” situation. Instead, you should see it as an opportunity to invest in an employee and help them grow. Give them the gift of high expectations by highlighting what they’re good at and then suggesting improvements in a positive and fair manner. Make them aware that you see their potential.

2. Provide clear expectations and resources

In order to be successful, performance expectations must be clear. This gets everybody on the same page. You can assign expectations on an individual basis or collectively for a team, but either way, always use positive, constructive feedback to nurture their potential. Also, prepare your employees for success by providing them with all the training and support they need.

3. Create a culture of recognition

Here’s one of the most valuable insights you can take away today —recognition plays an integral part in fostering accountability among your people. Morale stays high in a workplace where employees feel supported because they have the resources to reach their goals and their efforts are being recognized. Even acknowledging small accomplishments can maintain your team’s high spirit, which is the best way to motivate employees without the need for threats or punishments.

At the end of the day, we must move away from the negative views surrounding accountability and replace damaging leadership strategies like “my way or the highway” with conditions where employees are heard and set up for success via high (but reachable) expectations. The benefits for all parties involved speak for themselves.


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