What is the one skill you need for having your kitchen fitted according to your specifications and successfully delegating a task to an employee?
Communicating your expectations clearly.
Having my first ever kitchen fitted taught me the importance of setting and communicating expectations when delegating a task. Because everything that could go wrong, did go wrong… It was a nightmare when I came to look at the assembled kitchen. I had unhappy fitters after two days of hard work who were now worried about getting paid. We had arguments over who should pay what to get everything fixed. I had to rebuy an entirely new work surface, find new fitters and renegotiate prices. Read on to find out how to save yourself a lot of extra money, time and energy. I now see my experience as an expensive lesson from my personal life, which taught me that you only get what you ask for. So ask for it!
I assumed that the fitters had received a detailed briefing based on the kitchen details and the job description.
I was wrong. It looked like they were looking at the kitchen plan for the first time when they turned up.
My learning: Always start any task with a job briefing. Never assume that someone else has already taken care of it.
I assumed that the fitters knew how to fit my specific kitchen and in a way that I would be happy with it.
I was wrong. They had fitted kitchens before, but they had never fitted a kitchen from my particular supplier, which required additional steps such as the trimming of the work surface, which was not explicitly stated in the assembly instructions.
My learning: Ask your employees about their experience level for the specific job task. Especially for more specialist tasks.
I assumed that the fitters were aware of one of the highlights of the kitchen: a beautifully designed kitchen island, as highlighted on the kitchen plan.
I was wrong. They were not aware of it, didn’t look at the kitchen plan and simply assembled the island as they had done with all previous kitchen islands.
My learning: Highlight any unusual project details.
I assumed that they would contact me if a question came up.
I was wrong: They simply proceeded anyway, did not trim the work surface to the appropriate depth. It was barely possible to reach the drawer handles underneath.
My learning: When working with someone, for the first few times, have them give you regular progress updates and guide them towards the right direction in case anything is amiss. Don’t rely on a „Everything is going great.“ Communicate how and how frequently you want to be updated.
I assumed they were aware of the importance of the kitchen fitting for me. It was my first ever experience with expensive building work in an apartment and I had not allocated any additional budget or time to fix potential mistakes.
I was wrong. They treated the kitchen assembly like they would have treated any of their previous jobs.
My learning: If a task is new to you, has a high budget or tight deadline, invest more of your own time and check in more frequently. Communicate the importance of the task and any budget or time constraints.
What do all of my mistakes above have in common?
The word „assume“ features in every single one of my mistakes.
A lot of people in leadership positions shy away from communicating expectations. It’s the easy path.
Assumptions live inside your head. By working off of your own assumptions you don’t have to step outside your comfort zone and state what it is that you expect. You simply assume that your employees know what’s inside your head and will get the job done accordingly. Or you think that everyone is working from assumptions that are identical to yours (which is obviously not the case).
Taking the easy path in life does not lead you to the most rewarding results (or a nice kitchen).
You also can’t reasonably complain about your employees, because you, as the leader, did not specify what was important to you in the first place. It’s frustrating for everyone. Your team will not know if they are doing a job right or develop trust in you and your leadership. You want them to develop confidence in their own abilities. To empower your employees you need to give them a foundation to grow from. And this foundation consists of fair and transparently communicated expectations. Communicating expectations makes it easy for your employees to be aware of what’s important, to excel at their job and to complete tasks in a timely fashion and with an execution that you and they can be proud of.
So speak up, rock the boat, be demanding and communicate your expectations. In the long run, you and your employees will be grateful for it. Communicate your expectations clearly, transparently and consistently.
Check with your employees what is important to them too and what they need to be able to work productively. Agree on workable solutions for you, them and the team. What are their expectations while they are working for you? This people-centric conversation style will open doors to future constructive feedback sessions and performance and development dialogs.
Every leader needs to communicate her expectations to lead a motivated and empowered team that gets results. Communicate your expectations to delegate any task successfully. Find your voice, communicate your expectations and let yourself and your team shine!
Learn from my mistakes and you may also end up with a kitchen fitted according to your expectations.
Also look out for Part 2 of this series (coming soon): Setting Expectations – A Practical Guide
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