One of the truths that often bites us agency owners in the rear is the old adage about what happens when you make assumptions. And yet — we do it far more often than we’d like to admit. I think that’s because we (and our team) does not have a clear understanding of the difference between an assumption and an expectation.

For more information about Drew McLellan or Agency Management Institute – visit http://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com or check out the podcast – Build A Better Agency available at all the usual podcast host locations.

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Hey everybody! Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week, I am coming to you from Portland, Oregon. And some of the conversations I’ve been having this week with agency owners, the whole idea around supervising staff has come up over and over and over again. And let’s be honest, for most of us as agency owners, we didn’t study HR, we didn’t study team building, we didn’t study leadership or how to grow or mentor a team. So, kind of like our first kid, our employees sometimes suffer as we learn. And there’s a couple patterns that I’ve noticed in a lot of agency owners that I want to talk about in terms of having a better relationship and better outcomes with our teams. And I think there are two things that we do that accidentally get in the way of having better results with our team. The first thing we do is that we erroneously believe that if we tell someone or an entire team of people something once, that they are going to retain it, understand its importance, and behave according to those instructions over a long period of time. And the analogy that I always use is, if you have kids, when your kid was about three, you probably started saying, go upstairs, brush your
teeth, get ready for bed. And you didn’t just say that once. And then the next day, look at your kid like, “Are you heading upstairs?” No, we repeated that every night, and by the way, we repeated it every night multiple times, until finally, the habit was formed, by the time they were, you know, 15, hopefully, for them to go upstairs, brush their teeth and get ready for bed. The same thing is true with our employees. We’ve got to repeat the things that are important. We have to talk about them on a regular basis. We have to surround them with those rules or those ideas or those boundaries. Not only verbally, but visibly, and in other ways. So if you are a one and done sort of manager that you think you’ve had a conversation, so yep, they should remember it, they should know how important it is, and they should act accordingly, no matter what, that’s a mistake. The second mistake we make is that many agency owners will say to me something along the lines of, “Ugh! It is so frustrating. Why don’t they do this?” And I’ll say, “Well, why would you think they would do that?” Well, because that’s the right thing to do. Or, why would they do anything else? We often, and I would say this is a 90% of time, we operate and we manage based on assumptions rather than agreements. And so, what I mean by that is there’s a very big difference when you are talking to somebody or you’re coaching someone, and you’re going to assume that they’re going to do the next level of task or the next series of things the way you would do them, versus saying, “You know what? It is super important to me that the break room is clean at all times. So, I’m not going to assume that you all do the dishes every night at home, or understand that I want the dishes done every night in the office. So, can we have an agreement that whoever puts a dish in the sink also puts it in the dishwasher, and whoever leaves the office last, one of your tasks as you’re shutting down lights and setting the alarm, is to start the dishwasher and make sure it has soap? Can we all agree that that is the rule that we will all live by?” And then you look at each person and say, “Do you agree to do that? Do you agree to do that? Do you agree to do that? Do you agree to do that? And that sounds ridiculous, but that’s how you get the behavior that you want out of your team, is by having an agreement as opposed to making assumptions. And the dishes in the sink example is a silly one, but it is also one that irritates the crap out of a lot of agency owners. So this may be a great example for you to start practicing. This, “We need to have an agreement, right? So, do we agree that what is going to happen? Do we agree on who is going to do it? And do we also agree on what the consequences if that action isn’t done? So you know what, guys? Do we agree that if the kitchen isn’t cleaned up every morning, or every evening,  by the last person, or if somebody leaves dishes in the sink and doesn’t put their own dishes in the dishwasher, then here’s the consequence.” So try both of those. A, repeating the important things over and over and over again, and B, catching yourself when you are managing based on assumptions rather than agreements. I think you’re going to find that if you can fix both of those, tweak both of those managerial choices of yours, you’re going to have far better outcomes. Alright? I’ll talk to you next week.

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