After three decades as an executive coach and trainer, there are a few phrases that I find myself going back to repeatedly. This first is one of the most important things I’ve ever learned about business.
Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity
This is by far one of the biggest problems I see in companies I work with around the world, not creating clear, specific, and binary expectations. If people don’t know exactly what success looks like it is impossible for them to achieve it. By setting unambiguous, binary goals there is no guessing about whether something has been successfully accomplished or not, it is simply data. This removes emotions, politics, favoritism, and opinion from the equation, the person either met expectations or they didn’t – PERIOD.
Often times managers feel bad for holding people accountable because they don’t want to seem like they’re being mean, however, when the goals are binary it means that it’s not “me versus you,” it is me and you together trying to achieve the unambiguous goal. This makes it much easier to coach people and create a higher level of accountability across the organization. There are several different names that people use to describe this process, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) MBO (Management By Objectives), OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative, and Time-bound), but what they all have in common is that they are unambiguous, again, no guessing.
*** If the situation changes dramatically it is reasonable to change the goals, but not just because someone is having a hard time accomplishing them. If the goals were set clearly and the person agreed to deliver them and they are not meeting the expectations, that is a performance problem (either by the employee or the manager!).
By the way, the idea of setting unambiguous expectations is also important in working with your customers. If you are not clear about what you will deliver, the customer often has a different view of what they will receive, and even though you think you have delivered excellence they feel that it is mediocre because it did not meet the standards they had in mind. If you take the time to set realistic expectations with your customer, and then consistently exceed them, you will create customer evangelists that tell everybody how great your company is.
I could go on for another 14 pages, but I think you get the idea.
To meet the changing expectations of our customers we have built an ultra-modern system for delivering my full suite of training, speeches, and executive coaching online. I hope you will take two minutes to watch this brief video, I think you’ll find it very interesting and a little funny!