When you’re engaging in Proactive feedback, setting expectations means setting your employees (and you) up for success.
If you want to avoid morale-crushing micromanaging, the PREPARED approach to Proactive feedback will simply ensure your team meets deliverables exactly as you envision them. You’ll worry less while your employees love you more. Plus, they’ll feel great, too!
How to use PREPARED:
Create a PREPARED form that you always use with new project requests. You can fill it out for the employee, with the employee or request that the employee emails you their first draft of the PREPARED outline summarizing your verbal request so that you can confirm their understanding.
Let’s dive in!
SHARE: Why this is meaningful (to me, the customer, to our company’s vision/purpose/goals)?
Including the purpose saves time and builds morale. Adding a few words of purpose to a request helps your employees understand how they contribute. It helps them connect to why they work for you and for your company. It’s what helps them problem solve, be innovative, and feel valued. It’s what inspires them to give their best to everything they d for you.
You will never have a competitive culture where people are clamoring to work with you if you don’t maximize the connection of your company’s vision to the purpose of the work it takes to get there.
It’s not just millennials that want to make an impact and do meaningful work. It’s every generation. This is how you give your employees what they want and need.
“Because I said so” (stated verbally or indirectly) is not a phrase cherished by children, and the distaste grows stronger once we’re adults at work.
Too often workplace task delegation can be interpreted as disrespectful without attaching the purpose. It’s the difference between “Please bring me a cup of water” (because I see you as a lowly minion and I’m needy and lazy and I like to exert my self-importance) or “can you bring me a cup of water because I need to take some medication and I’m stuck on a customer call.”
You might get the water either way, but your employee will have a totally different experience (and opinion of you) depending on if you include the purpose.
Example: Our current issue tracking is taking too long to find customer complaint trends, and we want to do a better job at providing the excellent service we promise. This sales tracking will help us keep track of customer requests so that we can respond more quickly and accurately, ultimately helping us maintain better service and create better products.
SHARE: Why you (and who else)
Especially in today’s overwhelmed work world, sharing the intention behind selecting specific people to work on specific tasks can reduce resentment (why am I doing this instead of so-and-so) while providing an opportunity for recognition (because your [specific] skills will be a strong contribution).
Acknowledge who else is involved and how so that there’s full clarity on who’s doing what (and you’ve covered the why above).
Example: I’m having you work on this because you have the most spreadsheet knowledge. I also have Marketing working on the graphics for you.
OUTLINE: Delivery timing, quality and details.
How specific can you be about how task/project success will be measured?
Set your employees up for healthy rewards of dopamine and serotonin by helping them deliver exactly on your expectations.
Example: I need this looking polished enough for Board members so please use our company font and marketing material style guide. I also need this practical enough for our Customer Service team to use, so please be sure it is formatted to print on one page. Please have a draft by our meeting next Friday, and I’ll review it before we distribute.
SHARE: What’s more important than this?
A big source of employee stress is not understanding how to approach an impossible to do list, feeling overwhelmed because they can’t get it all done.
At the root of this stress is failing, having their competence in question and letting you down. Priority clarity is our best antidote.
When employees are vying for to make you proud (high five, serotonin!), not understanding how to do so can create a consistent state of stress. By stating the priority when you delegate, your employees will be less stressed (which decreases productivity) and instead be able to deliver better results faster.
Employees need you to help them prioritize what’s most important.
It’s shocking how few feel empowered to ask their bosses for this crucial information, so make it a win-win by proactively including it.
Example: I still need you to prioritize the database overhaul and sending event invites, as those are due before.
STATE IT: Predict excellence and get excellence.
If you follow your ABC’s (Always Build Competence), you’ll be getting the absolute best from your employees.
Perceived competency has a better impact on actual results than actual competency. Which gives you a ton of influence over inspiring results simply by stating your elevated view of their competence.
Example: I know you’ll do great at this… I know you can do this…
ASK: What additional resources do you need to complete this?
Resources might include tools, time, money, access and departmental collaboration.
By asking, you avoid them having a negative internal dialogue about how you don’t set them up for success, creating an unnecessary disconnect that hurts morale.
Not asking what they need could also be the difference between you getting the results you want since they may not feel comfortable asking.
Lastly, if they say they are good as is, they will be more accountable if they acknowledged they have what they need.
And if they ask for something that isn’t available, just do your best to support them in making the expected results feel achievable. This might be another opportunity to squeeze more mileage out of your ABC’s and perceived competence.
Example: You can ask Customer Service Manager and the Marketing Manager for their feedback before the delivery date to ensure the expectations are as requested. Do you need anything else to meet this project’s expectations?
DETERMINE: If, when and how do you want to be notified if an unforeseen circumstance challenges the expectations of the project?
If a project with higher priority takes longer and threatens the current projects deadline, do you want to know? When? How?
If anything comes up (another department didn’t deliver on time, the product came in a day late), do you need to know immediately or just at your next meeting? Help them know when to interrupt you to keep you in the loop (and potential create an alternate approach).
Example: If you’re concerned the project may not be done according to these deliverable expectations, please notify me that day by email (or immediately by text, etc).
Determine Success Milestones
ASK: How often do you need to check in to ensure the project expectations are on track?
This is where you proactively build in your availability for Progress, Positive and Pivotal feedback.
Success Milestones are where you provide Progress feedback to ensure the deliverable is on track to meet expectations.
It can be time based (once a week) or milestone based (when the [first draft] is done.
Ideally, ask your employee to set the success milestone. If you feel compelled to increase the frequency, simply suggest it, but let them keep the “power” by wording it as a question.
Example 1: How often would you like to check in on the project’s progress?
Example 2: Once you get the customer information in and have it formatted, can we check in before you go to marketing for the graphics?
Example 3: Once you have the first draft, will you email it to me and wait for my feedback before you proceed?
SEEM LIKE A LOT?
Until your employees start complaining that they had too much clarity, you’ll always under-infuse the PREPARED components.
The more you adopt this model and spend a little extra time up front, the more time you’ll save time in everything from missed deliverable consequences to employee turnover due to poor morale, feeling work is not meaningful enough, and not feeling like the right (competent) fit.