My competent employees aren’t meeting expectations and it’s my fault

Strategic Planning

SeekerSolutionFinal-38Do you have an employee that you know is capable of great things but never seems to measure up? Do you see them working hard but you can’t quite put your finger on why they aren’t meeting your expectations? Well, maybe you never really clearly defined them. Therefore, this post will show you how to set expectations.

In working with clients, I see many common obstacles in staffing. Employers typically have the right people in place. Employees are proficient in their assigned role, yet there is a disconnect when managers measure their success. Consequently, employees feel overworked and underappreciated. In addition, employers constantly wonder why their employees prioritize and problem-solve the way that they do.

How do I go about resolving this divide? I begin with defining the manager’s expectation for their employee’s roles. Typically, this process reveals that some of the manager’s expectations may fall outside their employee’s actual scope of work. Many times they see that they did not properly establish and communicate their expectations to the employee. This brings us to our next step, which is how to set appropriate expectations and get buy-in from employees.

SMART goals are the answer to this uniform method of defining and managing an employee’s performance. The acronym SMART stands for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound. This is an effective tool for personal and professional goal setting.

Making SMART Goals

  • S = Specific: Define targets that suit the person in question. Goals should consist of clear and unambiguous targets justifying the employee’s current position. Also, define additional responsibilities to grow within their position.
  • M = Measurable: Goals are measurable and quantifiable in short sprints of time. Objective goal setting helps a person in focusing and achieving team and individual goals.
  • A = Achievable: Set goals that are achievable. Environment, money, time and the employee’s skill set are common constraints. Make sure goals are achievable within and outside the organization’s boundaries.
  • R = Realistic: Goals are realistic and relevant to the person responsible for achieving them.
  • T = Time-bound: The time frame specified for the goals to be achieved should be defined at the time of setting the goals. Deadlines make it easier for a person to plan, achieve and measure the success of their goals.

How to Set Expectations

A manager’s responsibilities don’t end with setting SMART goals. Your success and the success of your team is defined by achieving the set goals. Therefore, a good manager’s role should include motivating their team effectively to achieve the goals. Here are a few points that can help you motivate your team:

  1. Break down the goals: Breaking down the goals into objective chunks to be achieved over a short period of time is a great way to help individuals achieve immediate and tangible results.
  2. Motivate employees: Motivating employees and fostering a positive environment for success is a great boost to employee confidence and can counteract pushbacks.
  3. Individual recognition: Individual recognition goes a long way for an employee to achieve success. Possibly more so with relatively low performing employees. Hence, never underestimate the power of a successful morale boost.
  4. Rewards: A reward doesn’t necessarily need to be financial. It can be as simple as a congratulatory note circulated over a bigger audience. But either route can greatly help in setting your reports up to achieve prolonged success.



In conclusion, a highly-motivated staff team with clearly defined, tangible expectations and rewards will lead to a successful work environment. Therefore, utilize SMART goals to set expectations, establish priorities and use as a management tool for accountability. As a result, it will help your company achieve desired results.




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