Broad Expectations vs. Narrow Conversations
From time to time (and by time to time I mean maybe 42 individual instances before this day is out), you’re going to run across team behavior that you’re not necessarily a fan of: a team member isn’t pulling their weight. A volunteer is consistently checking out early. A staffer is going rogue with your organization’s DNA.
When this happens, I’ve found that the best plan of attack is balanced by broad expectations and narrow conversations. In other words, we lay out desired behavior with the group, and then we target that desired behavior one-on-one with the team member who isn’t measuring up.
Some of you might chalk this indirect route up to my disdain of conflict, my general peacekeeping sensibilities, and my fear-of-man issues. And reader, you’d be correct. But stick with me as I try to win you over (and if I don’t win you over, it’s probably something I said and I’m terribly sorry and I hope you’ll still like me. Because, y’know…conflict.)
I’m convinced that most of the time when we’re not getting the behavior we’re inspecting, it’s because we haven’t clearly communicated that behavior. Oh sure, that volunteer was walked through the manual when they attended the onboarding training 14 years ago, but they haven’t heard the expectations since.
Those broad expectations – consistently and clearly communicated to the larger group – will serve as a baseline for behavior.
When a team member still isn’t measuring up, it’s time to get narrow. In other words, we use the broad expectation as a springboard to dive in on their particular situation.
Let’s take an “attend one / serve one” policy as an example. We can preach A1S1 all day long and still have vols who serve for 20 minutes and then slip into the service. In those situations, we have the opportunity to sit down with them face-to-face and address the expectations vs. the reality.
In your sit-down, I’d encourage you to ask a lot, and assume very little. Too often we walk into conversations with all the blanks filled in, rather than asking our team to do so. Your vol may have an incredibly good reason that they’re not following policy; the sit-down gives you a chance to get on the same page and allows you to shepherd them rather than shame them.
Now certainly, we must be prepared that those narrow conversations will cause the team member to dig in even deeper, signaling (explicitly or implicitly) that they’re unwilling to change behavior. In those moments, a team leaders gotta do what a team leaders gotta do. You may choose the route of continuing down the path of grace, or you may ultimately decide to help them make a graceful exit. I’ve curated a collection of blog posts on coaching and correcting, which you can find here.