The frustration that lies just below the surface, screaming “What do you want from me?” is one that our teams might experience often. Sometimes, it’s because of you. And while it might be related to the personality traits that you’ve not yet honed (nice, right? I didn’t say because you’re a jerk), it is quite possible that clarity around work expectations is off.
In the movie, New York, New York, Robert DiNiro’s character, Jimmy, communicates in a very unique and unpredictable manner. In his expressed love for Liza Minelli’s character, Francine, he struggles to communicate his heart in a “pretty way” (as Francine desires) and let her know what he wants. He is reactive, impetuous and frustrated when others around him don’t get where he’s going – both personally and professionally. Francine is such a sweetheart throughout the movie that she sticks with him even though he doesn’t really help her to know where she stands in the relationship (His marriage proposal is awkwardly hilarious).
Our staff might be in Francine’s shoes, and perhaps you’re a bit of a Jimmy. In your mind, there is a clear path. You can visualize where you are going and how you are going to get there. Great. But remember that you are the only one who can see inside your head. Those that you need or rely upon don’t get a special movie screening of your mental plan, unless you let them in.
We have a fear of failure. We don’t want to offer our plans and then have everyone know when it doesn’t work out. The influence of our fear of failure causes us to hold too closely to the vest our plans. We want to get started with it, see how it goes without defining it as our plan, and then if it seems to be working, reveal our intentions. And while there may be a bit of wisdom in this, there is a tendency to wait too long to share those expectations and participation levels to staff. When you ride them to get done something that they don’t get a connection to, there is a likelihood for less excellent work from your team. They don’t get it.
In a world clamoring for transparency (which isn’t always possible or helpful, btw), could this be an area to begin with? Set clear expectations and connect it to the work. Let your team know how and why. Afford them the opportunity to decide who on the team is best equipped to handle each portion of the plan. Let them own it more.
By doing so, the tension around work output diminishes. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be stress around work creation or process, but it will be one that is embraced as the outcome desired is clear. There is healthy stress!
Test out the theory. Sit with your frustrated team and ask what part of the process of work seems to be unclear. Let them be quiet for a minute. This is new for them, so they are not used to addressing such a specific question, perhaps. Then walk through the details around what’s brought up. Paint the right picture rather than just barking orders and timelines. Give them lighting for the path by connecting the reason for the work to the necessity of the goal.
Of course, this won’t get your staff from asking each other, “What is he thinking?” But, it won’t be directed towards the work. Instead, it will mostly be about you as a person. And it’s not likely that a blog is going to fix all of what’s wrong with you, Jimmy.