This is the fourth blog in a series of five. (Read the first, second, and third one.)
In January of 2020 (my last in-person conference) I heard a keynote by Jamie Taets of Keystone Group International about going “beyond the paycheck”. The talk focused on helping us, as leaders in our organizations, understand that paying people well is not enough. We need to do more to retain our top talent.
What resonated with me the most were her five reasons why people leave their jobs. Her reasons were all spot on and I have seen each and every one of them in action. Those reasons have never been more important to pay attention to than now. As companies are starting to hire again they may potentially hire away some of your best talent. Using her talk as inspiration, I’ve decided to revive this blog series on those five reasons (her information came from the American Progress Organization) and how you, as a business owner, can address them.
This week we’ll address the need to provide a framework for success.
In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, he defines the three things that everyone needs in order to truly feel engaged: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed. Which runs directly contrary to the traditional view of management. The command-and-control style of the industrial age just doesn’t cut it in the 21st century. People want to be able to control their work.
Mastery is the urge to get better at stuff. As we talked about in last week’s blog everyone wants to improve. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We like to face challenges that force us to grow.
Purpose is being part of something bigger than yourself. We all want to know that we are contributing to some greater good. That our actions are making an impact on the world, even in a small way. We want to see how we connect to something more.
For this blog, we’ll focus on the first of these three concepts. Autonomy comes from having a clearly defined framework for success.
The more detail and definition you can provide an employee about their role and how to complete it well, the greater the freedom it provides them. It seems a bit counterintuitive at first, but it works. Employees don’t have to stop and wonder if they’re working on the right things at the right time. They don’t have to worry that they’re dropping the ball on something or have let something slip through the cracks. They have the autonomy and power to control their focus and their schedule.
You can think of it like the syllabus for a college class.
The professor hands out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and then every student knows exactly which assignments are due when. Some of the better-organized students will take the initiative to write down all of these assignments in their planner now. And they’ll start working on each assignment well in advance of its due date. Some of the more go-with-flow types of students will wait until the week the assignment is due to get it completed. It doesn’t matter to the professor how or when they complete the assignment. As long as the student turns the assignment in on time and they have completed it well, the professor is happy.
Clearly defined expectations lower everyone’s stress levels.
When you tell your employees exactly what you expect from them in terms of work product, you are making sure that you will get what you need from your employees. You don’t have to worry if they know that you need a certain report by a certain time. You’ve already clearly explained to them that you do. You can be as specific and detailed as you like, but remember to give them some room to make it their own.
Your employees’ stress level will go down as well because they no longer have to worry about whether they’re doing what you want them to be doing. There is nothing worse in life than having to try to guess what your boss wants from you. Trying to read the minds of their superiors causes huge amounts of anxiety and stress for employees. Employees that feel they are continually chasing a moving target, will move on to a new, and better defined, role.
Another way that a clearly defined role lowers stress is that employees know what you’ll be grading them on. By objectively laying out the role’s success measures you let your employee know exactly what you’ll be judging their work performance on at their next review. This ensures that they know what to focus on. And you won’t catch them off guard by asking for an assignment they have never even heard of.
Every employee should know exactly what you expect of them from day one.
Clearly defined roles take the guesswork out of success. And show each employee exactly how they can be a star performer. Your job as a manager is to provide them that clarity and then get out of their way. You need to tell them what you expect and by when and then simply step back and let them do their job. Yes, you need to ensure you’re still providing feedback and coaching. And you may need to help out if they hit a bump in the road, but in general, they should be free to work however they like.
You might try to argue that employees don’t want you to tell them exactly what to do every day of their lives. But, by giving employees this framework for success, you are actually giving them the ability to control their days. If they know exactly what you need from them, they are able to set their own schedule of when and how to get those things done. You’ve defined their sandbox for them and they get to play however they want within it.
It takes time and energy to make sure that every role in your company is clearly and explicitly defined. But it will save you that effort 10 times over when your staff knows exactly what to do and when to do it, without having to stop and ask. When everyone knows exactly what they need to do, then you have a company that runs like a well-oiled machine.
Providing a framework for success gives your employees the clarity they need to be highly productive and highly engaged.