Like most teenagers, my first real job was at a fast food restaurant: Taco John’s to be exact. It wasn’t illustrious, but it paid the bills. Then one evening, it almost didn’t even do that.
Out of the blue, my boss sat me down and told me I was fired.
She had all the paperwork ready and all I needed to do was sign it.
I was shocked, having believed myself to be a model employee. With my jaw on the floor, I said, “Why?! I’ve been here for every shift and did everything that was asked of me.”
I was clueless. But my boss had a good reason. “Sure, you are here when you are supposed to be, but that’s it. You don’t take initiative. If there are no customers and I haven’t given you a task to complete, you just stand there doing nothing.”
I had no idea my manager wasn’t pleased. And I did not want to be fired. So, I spoke up, “What should I be doing?”
She said, “Well, when you have no one at your register, clean tables, empty the trash, wipe the counters and check to see if there are dishes to be done in the back. Take initiative.” Truth be told, back then I thought that sounded awful. But I told my boss to give me a second chance. And she did.
For the next month, instead of standing around, I looked to see what needed to be done and I did it. Three things happened:
- My shifts went by much faster.
- I began to take pride in my work
- I realized that meeting or missing expectations is all about perspective.
The discoveries I had while sweeping Potato Olés off the floor set the stage for my entire career.
Today, I often hear from executives frustrated about their company missing expectations, or from managers bewildered by their team’s lack of cohesiveness. Many are quick to blame external causes such as the economy or competitors. But often the root of the problem is unclear or a lack of internal communication about expectations.
In a healthy, productive office everyone is working toward the same goal and clearly understands how their role impacts the greater good. Employees take pride in their work and feel compelled to help their co-workers. No one mutters under their breath about what’s-her-name in the corner office or that clueless department on the fourth floor.
If your team is struggling, contact me for a complimentary 15-minute consultation. I’ll review how you’re communicating expectations and find ways to improve communication and teamwork. Often, a new perspective can boost employee satisfaction and productivity. That’s a win-win for everyone.