Managing delegate expectations

I’ve missed posting a Q&A post for a couple of weeks, so let’s get them back into gear.

How do you go about managing expectations in a learning context? Is it important to do so? What does it do?

On Friday, I delivered Assertiveness training. The first exercise I asked the group to do was tell me why they were there, wrote it up, and posted the flipchart onto the wall. This is like Training 101 type stuff, but here’s why it’s important to do so.

In most instances you won’t have met your delegates in any meaningful capacity before the event, so it’s important to understand why they are there. Are they mandated to be there? Has it been suggested by their manager? They thought the subject looked interesting? They want to learn something new? They have some downtime and need to do something productive? You get the answers to all these from the initial question. As a L&Der, this gives you a quick and initial insight into the groups needs and individual requirements.

At a secondary level, this also helps the L&Der to make a quick assessment about the attitude of the respective delegates. What terminology did they use to describe their reason for being there? What was their energy level like? How descriptive were they? How particular were they about their objective? This is important for any L&Der to take a measure of at the beginning of a session, as at the end you want to be able to identify in yourself that you have noticed an improvement in your delegates.

You are also able to quite quickly assess if you will be covering the content in your session. Hugely important for managing the delegate expectations. If they are attending a session on ‘Management Essentials’, they may be expecting to learn about employment law as part of the session, but you may have no intention of covering this at all.

By writing it up, you immediately capture the attention of the group and allow them to see how collaborative the session is likely to be. This is vital. In any training environment, the group need to build rapport and establish a ‘power’ relationship with the L&Der quickly. By inviting the group to submit their thoughts, you have created an informal 2-way discussion at the very outset, and from that point on, given permission to the group to be vocal.

By posting the flipchart to the wall, this quite simply creates a visual way to check in with the group and yourself as the session goes along. Are you keeping to their expectations? Have you addressed particular points? Did everyone contribute? Are you encouraging them to check back in?

It’s a common methodology used by L&Ders and one that will be used by countless others. Today’s question then is:

How do you capture the delegates expectations? And if you’re a delegate, when have you seen this done well?

>Sack the self deluded manager

>I have been reminded today of the importance of being clear and direct in how you communicate with your staff. But more importantly I have been reminded of how a self deluded manager can be such a bad thing for any business. You know who I mean. The manager that thinks they’re shit hot when they’re just shit. Oh Lord, give me strength.

So the situation goes something like this:
Manager “I don’t think Bob is working out.”
Me “What feedback has he had?”
Manager “Oh I’ve spoken with him and he understands he needs to improve his performance”
Me “Are you confident he is clear about exactly what he has to do to improve?”
Manager “Absolutely”

4 weeks later.

Manager “Bob definitely isn’t working out.”
Me “Ok let me talk to Bob.”

Me “Bob did you know that you’re not performing according to your manager’s expectations?”
Bob “Kind of.”
Me “Are you clear about what you need to do to improve?”
Bob “No.”

Who would I fire of the two? No surprises for guessing it would be the manager. Why though? Because the manager was self deluded. He thought that he was being clear by giving Bob messages like “we’ve had feedback that you aren’t being enough of a leader” but not giving Bob any further information about how to be a leader. Or messages like “we need to put you on a development plan” with little explanation of why and even less explanation of how to improve. Or messages like “You have great technical skills but you need to work on your people skills” with zero guidance on how to develop those all important people skills.

As a manager one of the key responsibilities you have is to be clear in no uncertain terms about your expectations of your team. If they’re not performing and you have clear evidence to support your judgement the conversation needs to be as pointed as saying “Bob I’ve had feedback you aren’t being enough of a leader. And here’s how I’m going to help. Here’s a plan we will work on together to help you improve. It is important you are able to do this otherwise I will have to consider putting you on a development plan or worse disciplining you.”

You have to have those conversations. You’re not a manager to make friends. You’re a manager to (drum roll) manage. You have to manage workloads, staff, departments, budgets, plans, deliverables, blah, blah, blah. And if you’re not having those conversations because you’re self deluded you deserve to be let go sooner than Bob or any other member of your team you think aren’t performing.