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Communicating expectations to employees

Posted: August 3, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 3, 2014 2:00 a.m.

 

When you hear “I’ll try” you are listening to someone with a lack of intention.

In the movie “The Empire Strikes Back,” Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not; there is no try.”

Has the lack of intention become the norm in your company? Deadlines slip, projects remain unfinished, meetings are held and no one follows through.

One owner described the foundation of his business growth and strong relationships with employees, clients and vendors based on all adhering to “The 100 percent Rule.”

This rule, created at startup, states that all parties must give 100 percent, all the time, in order for the relationship to be successful and ongoing. This results in several positive things taking place.

The first is that it establishes a sustainable, competitive advantage for the company. In an industry known for less than stellar work and disengaged employees, and for clients who are constantly suspicious of corners being cut, the rule is a differentiator.

Second, it creates a premium pricing position. Clients understand the value of the work that is being delivered. This creates additional revenue, allowing the company to hire, retain and pay for better employees, people who are likely to stay longer and are proud of the company they work for.

The third thing it does is create a positive reputation in the marketplace.

Words like quality, service and delivery are used freely in advertising and promotion in this particular industry (technology services) because that is what clients and prospects expect.

But when it comes to phrases such as: on time, on budget, Quality work done at one time, guaranteed, this service provider leaves the competition behind with what they provide to clients.

Fourth, it produces an atmosphere of trust created and maintained between the company and the client. That relationship is invaluable on both sides. The client doesn’t need to seek out other vendors and the company has a base of repeat clients.

Finally, the company becomes known and respected as a quality place to work. Employees weed out those that do not meet the demanding standard of the 100-percent rule.

How are values such as these brought to life? How can a simple concept, often misconstrued, become part of a company culture without misinterpretation?

Mike Krzyzewski is the men’s basketball coach at Duke University. Coach K, as he is known, is, is more than a coach of young men; he is a leader and teacher. He is successful because he understands that his primary task is motivation. He not only has to motivate individuals to their highest ability but has to teach these individuals to function as a unit.

How does he do this? Words are used to communicate what is desired. Real life examples are told in story form to demonstrate what the words mean and what is expected of the students.

When defining the word “dependability,” Krzyzewski shares with his players about his brother Bill, who never missed a day of work in 38 years as a firefighter in Chicago.

The word “courage” is used to describe the story of Jim Valvano, who died after a long, hard battle with cancer. This former coach lives on in name and spirit as his foundation’s annual basketball tournament continues to raise funds for cancer research.

The word “imagine” is what motivated supporting player Shane Battier to step up to a leadership role on the team, something he had never considered. Krzyzewski called him daily, asking Battier if he ever imagined himself scoring 30 points in a game, or being conference player of the year.

Whatever your core values are, they cannot just be words; they must come to life in stories that demonstrate what you expect.

It’s acceptable to set the bar high. You’ll attract and keep the best, and the others can go to work for your competition.

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