There are many different methods and systems for companies to become self-managed, but all successful Teal companies have at least one thing in common: Clear expectations. There is often an assumption that self-managing means less rules or more vague rules. In fact, the opposite is true. To effectively self-manage, everyone needs absolute clarity on what they must and must not do. Here are how to create clear expectations and the benefit of each. When in doubt, just remember this single sentence:

All job expectations must be EXPLICIT, OBJECTIVE, and IMPORTANT.

Explicit

Explicit means that something is, fully and clearly expressed; leaving nothing implied. Think about some of your past (or current) job expectations. They are often whatever sounded good at the time and ultimately mean the same thing: "Do whatever your boss tells you". If your job expectation is "Provide WOW service", it sounds good for marketing, but what does it actually mean?

Explicit job expectations means your expectations are written down somewhere you and everyone else can see at any given moment and you are required to do exactly what that expectation says - nothing more, nothing less. An explicit expectation is simultaneously the minimum standard and the praiseworthy goal. If my expectation is "Buy food for the household", that means I can buy any type of food, any amount of food, and any quality of food. As long as I have bought food for the household, I have done my job. If the way I am currently doing the job isn't accomplishing what you hoped, you need to add clarity to my expectations.

Having explicit expectations comes with the understanding that all accountability throughout the company is resting on the explicit nature of the expectations. I should never get in trouble for not doing something unless that something is explicitly defined and I was aware of it. Anything I do in addition to my expectation is me going above and beyond.

If you're unsure if your expectation is explicit enough, repeat this mantra and add clarity to the expectation until both parties (such as the employee and the manager) both have the same understanding of what is expected.

Nothing is "obvious". "Common sense" doesn't exist. Nobody "should" know or do anything.

Objective

Objective means that something is not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased. For an expectation to be objective, it must be built around metrics and data that can be tracked and proven. Expectations such as "Answer the phone promptly" are left up to interpretation and are full of grey area and uncertainty.

Instead, an expectation of, "Answer all calls within 30 seconds of the phone ringing" is objective. Call data can easily show how long the phone was ringing before an associate picked up the call. A simple spreadsheet can prove whether or not the expectation was met. You no longer need to worry about a matter of "he said/she said" where I think I did my job and you think I didn't. Instead, we can easily identify which of us is factually right. I can now be confident knowing whether or not I did my job satisfactorily and my manager or leader will have a far easier time holding me accountable.

Important

Important means that something is of great significance or consequence. No matter how much we want to talk about autonomy, self-management, and employee experience, none of these things are even possible if vital work isn't getting done. A necessary part of job expectations is to make sure those expectations actually matter. If I am a stellar employee who shows up early every day, does a great job, and makes the company money, do you really care my lunch break runs over by 5 minutes? If you're thinking that's not a big deal, then my expectation to have a specific duration for lunches needs to change or be removed entirely.

Expectations that are not important mean far more expectations than are necessary. The more expectations I have, the harder it will be for me to confidently remember every one of them and be certain I am accomplishing everything. Additionally, I will quickly learn which expectations matter and which don't. If my lunch runs long every day and I never get in trouble, I will learn that expectation doesn't matter. Once I know some expectations don't matter, every other expectation will lose importance. I may then start ignoring additional job tasks to focus my time and energy on the ones I think are more important.

If you're not sure if an expectation is important enough to add to someone's role, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does it really matter to me if they do this specific thing?
  2. Am I willing to write this person up and/or fire them if they consistently don't do this thing?

Again, let's look at a job expectation of, "Take a lunch break that lasts no more than 1 hour." What if I show up 5-10 minutes late from my lunch every day, but I do a phenomenal job at every other task I do in the company? Does it matter if I take a bit longer but still get all my work done every day? Are you willing to fire me over that or will you let it slide?

If you find yourself thinking it's not a big deal, the simplest solution is to get rid of the expectation. By having clear expectations on all the important parts of a role, it eliminates the need for many other expectations that ultimately hold little value.

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