When I hear managers discuss their low talent employees who don’t perform the first thing that comes to my mind is why haven’t they been fired? The second thing I think is maybe the expectations are not properly being set.

Expectation setting is key in any role. Whether you manage a Fortune 500 Company or a Yogurt store, setting and managing expectations is one of the most important aspects of people management. Without expectations people will run wild. With expectations you set guidelines that allow people to operate within to be successful.

Consider these simple rules for expectation setting:


If you are consistent in your expectations with all your employees then everyone on staff will begin to get in line. You must be consistent not only with the expectations that you set but you also must show consistency with the disciplinary actions that follow breaking or not achieving those expectations. The bar you set for Sue must be the same for her peer Jim. Without consistent expectations the staff will begin to think they have their own set of rules and that what applies to their peer does not apply to them. In an inconsistent world of expectations the manager then is forced to enforce the expectations differently.

Keep in mind that every employee is different and there is no model for the universal staff. However he expectation of success, not the individual goals, can be consistent. Think about each sales person, they may have different goals, but your expectation is that they will each make their goals tailored for them.

If you allow Sue to achieve her goal at 80% then you must allow Jim to skate by at the same rate. The expectation is consistent.


Expectations have to be realistic and achievable. If your expectation is the staff works 40 hours per week then great. If your expectation is they all work 80 hours then you are setting an unachievable and unrealistic expectation. You just find the balance between achievable and realistic with your staff.

Unrealistic expectations set the bar at a level that your staff will automatically not strive for because it’s unreachable. If we are asked to run a mile in less than 5 minutes we won’t even attempt it, if it’s less than 12 minutes we know we can probably achieve that goal and we will make an attempt.

In closing, your level of expectations that you set will determine the respect level your staff has for you. If you are fair, realistic and consistent then your staff will in return work at a pace that will achieve your goals. Without these rules, you can consider your companies goals unrealistic and therefore unattainable by the people you need to get you there.

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Your Speaking Skills May Be Holding You Back

While I sit here and listen to a group of extremely intelligent men speak on economic growth, I can’t help but be bored to death with their lack of any ability to hold my attention. The first speaker threw in some jokes to keep our attention but his delivery and tone just wasn’t enough to captivate us. The second speaker steamrolled through each slide as if he was on a time limit before a bomb dropped. I literally have no clue what he said or what his speech was about. And currently the guy at the podium has cleared his throat in the mic fifteen or so times leaving everyone to roll their eyes. Not to mention he has asked for technology assistance twice as he said out loud, “I’m not sure what I’m doing with this (computer).”

Needless to say, it leads to the thought of how important your public speaking skills are, and it’s possible they may be holding you back.

It’s perfectly normal to feel nerves when walking up to the podium to address a large group of people and it’s normal to feel nervous in front of a small group of peers in your office. Both are situations in which you have to captivate the audience and speak words that will engage, motivate and excite the audience. The reason that comedians have someone else go out and warm up the crowd before they start is because they want all the blank stares and awkward notions to exit the room before they walk out and address the crowd.

You don’t always have the ability to rely on someone to warm up your crowd, so improving your speaking skills on your own should become a priority.

It’s possible that your inability to captivate or hold an audience is holding you back from promotion within the company. It was announced yesterday that Marisa Mayer fired her newly hired “Ad-Guru” and it is not a coincidence that today a video surfaced of his ill-fated presentation several months ago which included his poor content and inability to captivate the crowd. This was a man that was given a $60 million compensation package and essentially lost his job after 15 months due to a combination of clearly his poor production but also due to the fact that he couldn’t captivate a crowd.

What gets lost in the shuffle is we are asked to captivate people every minute of the day. You don’t have to stand in front of a room of five hundred people to prove you have great public speaking skills. Your skills can be tested in a meeting of six or in the hallway with a peer. Stop for a second and think of the person in your office with the weakest public speaking skills. Chances are this is the same person who struggled to look you in the eye and stutters his or her way through a brief conversation.

I promise you that person will not be promoted the next time a promotion opportunity exists.

Captivating an audience is bigger than just being able to write and produce good content. You need to focus on your appearance first. The fourth speaker that just took the stage is the best dressed and his voice is carrying better than anyone, and we are actually listening to this gentleman. He was animated and stepped back from the podium and gave us a reason to not only listen but to watch as well.

Of course, your content needs to give people a reason to watch and listen. Consider using pictures that captivate instead of boring charts and figures. Use text that is different than the norm and animations that give people a reason to look for the next slide. Your content will be half of the reason that people pay attention and if it bores you to put together, it will bore your audience to watch.

Your public speaking skills could be holding you back from success and more importantly a promotion within your company. Consider finding a conference or seminar that you can attend to grow your skills and comfort level. Without a strong communication and speaking ability, your promotion will be given to your peer, who can address a crowd, and a small group of people.

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Are you Reacting or Creating?

With the rush of a 60 hour work week and the constant connection of our phones it is easy to become a pinball in the game of work.  When we turn the lights off at the end of the day it can feel as though we’ve accomplished nothing.  We often feel like firefighters running around the office to spray every fire that comes up and never take the time to stop and create opportunities for ourselves or our staff.

You have to stop and ask yourself what your contributions have made to the office over the past several months? Are you spending time moving from project to project without taking the time to create opportunities for the company?  Have you recently created a new sales opportunity for your staff or a way to save money for the company?

Think about your day and how much reaction time you spend vs. creation time.  If you’ve become the office pinball then dedicate time each week to brainstorming new ideas to produce revenue.  Otherwise you can be replaced by another pinball in the office the next day.

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What Does Your Desk Say About You?

Your attitude, your clothing, your smile or a lack thereof, the time you roll into the office.  All of these are pieces of what make up the person that you are perceived to be at the office.  While none of them can define who you truly are, they are elements that people pull from when describing you.  How many times have you heard someone say, “John’s a great guy but he is a sloppy dresser!”  While the perception may be that John is great, someone will always remember his sloppiness in his apparel when thinking about his image.

The same goes for the way you keep your desk organized.  It is typically true that the desk that someone keeps defines the way they handle themselves in or out of the office.  Rarely do you find that someone who keeps a super messy desk is a detail oriented individual.  It’s often quite the opposite.  If you can barely see the top of your desk then you may have people around the office talking about you!

Keeping a clean desk doesn’t always mean you are a superstar in your job, but it does give off the perception that you are a buttoned up employee or for lack of a better term, it might make it easier to think that you have your shit together.  Imagine a candidate for a job walking into your office and you are trying to recruit them.  If your office smells like your lunch, the decorations are outdated, and your desk is full of scattered papers, what kind of an impression will that give to this future employee?

I’ll never forget the way I felt after interviewing at a particular company years ago.  The lobby was disgusting, the drapes looked like they hadn’t been dry cleaned in decades, it was dark, the sales floor was gross, the carpet needed to be replaced, and the office and desk of my future boss was a mess.  It gave me such the wrong impression of the place as a company I would be proud to call my job.  Do you think you’ve ever lost a candidate because they thought your desk was a mess and it was a reflection of you? It may sound like the extreme but chances are somewhere along the line someone has been turned off by your space.

A messy desk says a lot about you.  A messy office says even more.  If you don’t have the ability to clean or tidy up your work space then maybe you don’t have the ability to steward the biggest project of the year.  It has zero to do with reality and everything to do with perception, and last time I checked, perception is reality!

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The Fifty Percent Rule

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying that you have too many meetings then it’s time to introduce the fifty percent rule.  Let me explain.

I’m a firm believer that nobody should have more than fifty percent of their week booked with back to back meetings.  If you were to take a standard forty hour work week, assuming you actually work only forty hours, and calculate the amount of hours you spend in meetings, it shouldn’t exceed twenty hours.  If so, then you have too many meetings.

If you are spending more than twenty hours a week in meetings then here is what that looks like:

  • Half of your day is dedicated to sitting in a room with your peers or someone from another organization discussing a business plan or a project. How much fun does that sound?
  • This leaves you with less than four hours a day to answer email, follow up on a project status, return calls, or close the loop on a particular project you may be working on.  Your work week is now down to twenty hours but you are still expected to produce a minimum of forty hours worth of material.
  • You constantly push off other projects that need to be done because you are always trying to stay up on new projects that keep getting pushed onto your plate.
  • You will eventually be forced to say No to opportunities that may make sense for both you and your company because you’re too far behind on all the meetings and deadlines that need to be accomplished.
  • You run from one conference room to the next with no end in sight!

I realize that there are weeks where you may end up spending fifty percent of your work week in a meeting.  This is naturally going to happen pending your position and title.  I simply think it is a fail tactic though if you continually spend more than fifty percent of your time closed up in a conference room.

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Step Away From The Desk

I once had a boss who I could never find.  He was always out of his office, away from his desk and somewhere in the building.  I used to get so frustrated at the idea of not being able to locate him, but today I appreciate his management style more than ever.  His style was one that allowed him to be out among the staff as one of the people.  When I wanted to get in touch with him he always emailed me back and was fast to respond, but sitting at his desk was not something he enjoyed.

He told me that the best advice he ever received was to “manage by walking around.”  Today this sounds a little cliche, we’ve heard a lot of so-called management experts discuss this topic and stress the importance of being out of your office and on the office floor.  The truth if this style of management is probably one of the most effective for a number of reasons.

1. Everyone plays on the same playing field

In your office, you are the boss.  Out on the office floor, you are among peers.  Please don’t mistake the notion that you only have power in your office but there is an intimidation factor that plays into someone coming into your office, closing the door and sitting across from your desk.  This setting isn’t normal for the employee and they have officially entered into your domain.  It’s a home field advantage for the boss, and a road game for the employee.  Being out with your staff gives them the perception that you want to help.

2. You give off the vibe that you care

When you walk into an employee’s cubicle, you put off the notion that you want to be on the same page as them.  Chances are the question, “what’s going on” while asked in their cubicle will lead to a problem solving situation in which you can assist.  If you ask how the weekend was, and then parlay that into, “hey I need you to take care of something for us” then the task is going to be met with more gratitude than it would if it was discussed in your office in a formal setting.  Being on the floor shows you care because you have now stepped out of familiar territory to converse with employees.

3. You take a pulse on the organization

Consider your office a bomb shelter.  Now consider the office floor the place in the city where you are most likely to get shot.  Doesn’t feel so comfortable, right?  While this might be a strong and very false connection between the two,  the office floor is the place where you can take the pulse and learn what exactly is happening on a day to day basis.  It is the place where you can learn about the weekend activities that everyone took part in but it is also the place where you can learn about the failures that are taking place by other employees.  You will also learn the scale for office morale and exactly how happy your staff is with recent changes.

Leaving your office to walk the floor and spend time with your staff is an invaluable skill that believe it or not, several managers know nothing about.  If you make it a habit to walk the floor just once a day, I promise you will learn more about your staff in the first week than you’ve learned in the previous months.

In closing, I once had a manager who never left their office.  We always wondered what they were doing in there.  They were eventually let go.  Turn out, they weren’t doing anything.

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The 40 Hour Work Week Doesn’t Exist

As I sat on my fourteenth plane in three weeks I started to wonder what my week would look like if I truly only worked 40 hours.  I thought about my day last that started at 3:45am when my alarm went off to catch a 5:45am flight and head across the country.  I start to think about my time spent over the weekend for company events, one in which I volunteered happily for and another in which I went to support my staff.  None the less, it was a combined 13 hours of additional work for the company.  Client parties, client dinner, and engagements all on behalf of the company that runs deep into the evening.  If I cut my week off at 40 hours then there are weeks where I wouldn’t make it to Wednesday afternoon.

I want to preface this by stating I am absolutely not complaining.  I have a wonderful job, I work in a great environment surrounded by great people, I’m treated well and in turn I work these wild weeks all because of these listed reasons.  If I had a poor job that didn’t pay well then I would absolutely never think about spending this much time outside the walls of 8am to 5pm with people whom I disliked.  This is not the case.  I volunteer for such events over the weekend not only to show support for my staff but because I enjoy those who surround me.

I couldn’t imagine being one of the millions of people who hate their job but are required to spend this outside work time, this personal family time, at the office or engaged in company related activities.

The point of all this is that the 40 Hour Work Week Doesn’t Exist these days.  In a world where technology is supposed to improve our lives and make communication easier it has only allowed us to stay more connected to the office thus expanding our work week.  Travel time, meetings after 5pm, client dinners, etc. these are all events on behalf of the company that you are spending time at in addition to be connected to the office and your peers 24/7.

If you know anyone who works a standard 40 hour work week and makes over six figures then tell that person to hold on to their job for their dear life, those positions don’t exist.

In addition to this notion that the standard work week has passed us by, companies have to think differently about the way they view their employees.  Clocking in at 8am and departing at 5pm is an old way of thinking and if your organization expects you to be in your cubicle at a specific time each day then they are stuck in a previous decade.  Your company needs to understand the amount of hours you dedicate outside of the clock ticking between 8a and 5p.

I am happy to work these wild weeks, get on a plane when asked, and go the extra distance for my company.  However, I do it because they recognize the effort and work that I put back into them.  Challenge your company to recognize the effort you put forth if they don’t already, odds are if they haven’t by now, they never will.

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