Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • As leaders and supervisors you have seen average work output and you have seen absolutely excellent work output. Why is there such a difference? I believe it has to do with how a supervisor sets expectations. Many times a person may know what the end point is but they do not always know how to accomplish it. For example – a business case. An individual may know the basics but has not heard clear overarching expectations that would result in excellence. I call these behavioral or operational expectations. They address how to go about doing the work.

    I developed these expectations as guiding principles for my staff. We talked as a group about what they meant and, in turn, they appreciated the fact that I made my expectations crystal clear. This conjures up the mental picture of bowling. Imagine a piece of black cloth suspended just in front of the pins. As you bowl, you do not know what the target is and you do not know how well you did.

    Whether you are a supervisor or individual contributor, my hope is several of these expectations will resonate with you and you can incorporate them into your daily work.
    Behavioral Expectations for Excellence
    (1) Does the question pass the logic test? Sometimes urgent questions or issues come up but they have not really been thought out. If it is the wrong question to be asking and investigating, stop the work quickly. Use judgment to decide if your supervisor should know about the work. In some cases, no matter how close the economics are, the decision may still rest with the manager of the organization.

    (2) Passes the logic test so on to the next step. Determine what you do not know. What other departments might be interested in the topic or have information that could be useful? Detailed information outside of your department or expertise may be required in order to make a decision or gain approval for an action. (Some examples of departments: insurance, compensation, internal audit, external audit, corporate communications, legal, tax, corporate financial reporting, business unit or manufacturing unit.)

    (3) Calculate the numbers. Go “crazy” on the analytics. Be data driven. Everything should be looked at with cash flow in mind. An economic analysis must include the impact on all financial statements – balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.

    (4) Assess against the “red face” test. This is all about considering the unexpected and preventing unintended consequences. What could happen that would make this a bad decision? In what other way could people interpret the decision or action? How will we answer their questions? Three years from now will I still be proud of this work?

    (5) Volunteer for leadership. When you hear an issue come up that you want to take responsibility for, just say so. I am looking for people that step up to the plate even when it seems that their plate is full.

    (6) When you get a project or topic area to be in charge of you get the whole thing. You will have to coordinate the work of all groups and individuals that interface with the given topic. Personal power and networks are a must. I cannot stress enough the importance of continually thinking about all things that should be considered so that all contingencies are covered. The bigger the project the bigger the impact if something does not go as planned.

    (7) Exhibit calmness – be a duck. Above the surface of the water a duck always looks serene and in control. Underneath the water the duck is paddling intensely. People around you need to see you are confident and in control of the situation even though inside you may be thinking intensely about many things.

    (8) Written, oral and visual communication skills are essential. The ability to quickly use Excel, PowerPoint and Word, in a crisp, concise and artistic way, will make your job easier. Help each other out. Have someone else look at the work. Listen to their suggestions. Many times we only get one chance with our audiences. We want to spend it explaining content rather than format.

    (9) Figure out what issues are facing the department and company. Your ability to anticipate and be proactive will help you do this. Solving these issues and problems accomplishes two things: improves internal processes and makes your boss look good. Both will help you in achieving your career goals.

    (10) The quicker the better. Go talk to your supervisor early on with concepts and ideas. It is much better to have shorter and more frequent meetings. Avoid waiting for perfection. If you wait too long you may find yourself starting over. Exhibit high energy and urgency.

    (11) Pretend you are the CEO or CFO. What else would you want to know? Get the answer to that question.

    (12) It is better to actively decide not to do something than it is to never consider it in the first place. A passive decision is a lost opportunity.

    (13) Strive to reduce cycle time and eliminate defects in everything you do. Set ambitious goals. Learn from the past and apply it to the future. You can always improve.

    (14) A supervisor needs great breadth in their position. Therefore, approach your projects with great depth. If a supervisor feels they have to get into the details, then you need to improve. Ask for feedback.

    In today’s business environment we must strive for excellence. What was great a year ago is average today. Discussing these behavioral expectations with your team will allow you to achieve superlative results.

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