May 9, 2022

How to Enforce your Expectations--Kindly! (Kind Leadership Challenge 14)

How to Enforce your Expectations--Kindly! (Kind Leadership Challenge 14)

Most people will live up to your expectations--as long as you're clear on what they are, the rewards for meeting them, and the consequences for violating them. But it often feels like a struggle to hold people accountable to your expectations in moments where they’re struggling for good and understandable reasons, without becoming a uncaring, toxic boss. Every Kind leader has struggled with this issue, and the good news is that humane accountability isn’t an oxymoron—it’s the essence of managing your team effectively. And today, I’ll teach you how to do just that.
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Episode and Case Study Transcript: https://kindleadershipchallenge.com/14

Join the Community: https://kindleadershipchallenge.com/community

Get Un-Stuck!: https://kindleadershipchallenge.com/course

Email your thoughts:sarah@kindleadershipguild.com

Transcript

Most people will live up to your expectations--as long as you're clear on what they are, the rewards for meeting them, and the consequences for violating them. But it often feels like a struggle to hold people accountable to your expectations in moments where they’re struggling for good and understandable reasons, without becoming a uncaring, toxic boss. Every Kind leader has struggled with this issue, and the good news is that humane accountability isn’t an oxymoron—it’s the essence of managing your team effectively. And today, I’ll teach you how to do just that.

Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge, where I empower educational and library leaders like you to heal your organizations! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience coaching, consulting, and presenting to library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me that leaders don't have to be perfect to build a better world. And now I want to share those same lessons with you.  

Here's the deal. You give me the next 5-10 minutes of your day. In return, I'll share short stories and simple challenges you can implement this week to heal yourself and your school or library. Each challenge is designed to coach you in the confidence, skill, and trust you need to let go of a little control. By embarking on each week’s challenge on your own or with the community of over 1000 kind leaders in our private facebook group, you and your team will begin growing humanely, managing effectively, and partnering collaboratively, and your school or library will build a more informed and educated world along the way.

Today we’re going to change it up a little with a case study exploring how you can humanely hold your team accountable for not meeting expectations. Think of it as a practice round for when your next leadership challenge arises.  You’ll have some homework at the end, but I promise it’s nothing too hard. This is the story of Jane. She’s a recently tenured associate professor in the small university where you serve as her department head. Jane has historically been one of your stronger performers over the last 5 years, excelling in teaching, research and service. She’s even suggested a few new projects and programs. However, things have taken a serious turn in the last semester. Jane recently had to place her father in an assisted living facility, and you’ve heard rumblings through the grapevine that her marriage isn’t going well either. Around the same time that things were coming to a head with her father, Jane started missing deadlines, and became much quieter in meetings, speaking only when prompted and just saying the minimum. After the second missed deadline you approached her and had a gentle coaching conversation, in which she said she would do better. You didn’t want to pry, but did ask how things were going at home. She just replied with the bare minimum and you decided it would be best not to make her uncomfortable by pushing. 

Unfortunately, the next month her decreased productivity caused a bit of a work crisis. She and two colleagues had been working together to write a section of the self-study document for the school’s upcoming reaccreditation. One week before the deadline, the team member who was assembling the final draft asked Jane for her portion of your department’s chapter, a statistics heavy report, and it turned out that it had “fallen off her radar”. The other team members approached you in a panic, and after several late nights of scrambling and digging through spreadsheets, you helped them finish. The rest of the team was furious, and wanted her formally reprimanded. You weren’t quite ready to go that far, and gave her a verbal warning, with the understanding that the next warning would go on her record. The rest of the team wasn’t thrilled, and you were hearing more and more rumblings that jane had “gotten away with it.” After all, the rumor mill churned, times were tough for everyone, and yet they were getting their work done.

The whole thing finally came to a head this past Monday at staff meeting. What started as a postmortem of the accreditation report situation rapidly became an implicit bashing session of Jane. You kept trying to redirect the conversations back to the problems, not the people, but it was an uphill battle. Finally, there was one passive-aggressive remark too many, and Jane blew her top. She verbally lashed out at the team for making her the scapegoat, expressed that she felt you burdened her with all of the dirty work, and burst into tears and left. You quickly called a halt to the meeting, but before you could talk to Jane the other members of the accreditation committee came into your office and demanded that she face formal consequences. In that moment you were inclined to agree, but you didn’t want to get sucked into the team’s thirst for punishment either. 

You go to your office, shut the door, and take some cleansing breaths. Because you’re a proud graduate of the Get Unstuck course, you know the first step to any kind leadership decision is to define the problem and identify some key questions that would help you resolve it. By doing so, you will gain a better understanding of your expectations, your team member’s capabilities, and possible ideas for mutually bridging the gap between the two in a way that will best serve the organization.  

So here’s the problem. Jane is not meeting performance standards after several informal coaching chats and a verbal warning, frustrating you and her colleagues in the process. However, this behavior is out of character for Jane, and there’s likely something deeper going on. The rest of the team isn’t being as supportive as you’d expect them to be in this sort of situation either. You tentatively believe that by gathering more information about Jane’s situation as well as her coworkers perspectives, you can determine the best course of action.

Now, I’m turning over the case study to you. As you listened to this story, what questions do you have that will help you see the path forward more clearly? If you go to the link to this episode in the show notes, you can reread the story if that will be helpful. They can be questions for Jane, for your colleagues, even for yourself! I’ll throw a few questions of my own in this week’s discussion thread in the facebook group, but I’m WAY more interested in yours. 

Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, email me to let me know—or even better, share this challenge with a colleague!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.

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