Standards Part 3- Clarifying Standards

Posted on January 5, 2010


It may sound absurd if I tell you that despite our certainty that our teams know the standards we expect of them, some of the members would still be unclear or confused. Many of us may have found ourselves to have experienced falling into a pitfall where we assumed that the team knew what we expected only to have them deviated from the standards. Frustrating, wasn’t it? We shall examine in a closer detail the art of clarifying standards in this article.

I believe the importance of clarifying standards is fairly evident. It ensures that everyone is on the same page. Ensuring that everyone is clear of what is expected of them is crucial in fulfilling the intent of setting standards in the first place, which is to create a common framework and underlying guidelines that the team agrees upon and willingly follows.

The failure to achieve clarity in standards often stem from two main sources. Assumption is the first. All too often, we, as leaders, overlook the simple fact that we may not have made our stand clear and yet assume that our team members are clear and will abide by it. A simple recipe for failure, isn’t it? Also, leaders often fail to realise that it is impossible to transmit an idea with a hundred percent accuracy, for what the listener gets of what we are saying depends on how we transmit the message and his interpretation of it. This two process leaves room for deletions, distortions and generalisation, rendering the final picture somewhat different from the original. Now you know why nagging doesn’t always work?

Realising this mean that half the battle is won; the other half would depend on how we act on it. Firstly, allowing the standards to be determined by the team, as discussed in the previous article, would be helpful. The process of formulating the standards would encompass clarifications and specifics, allowing everyone in the team to be on the same page. It would also help to verbalise the standards. This prevents the foolish assumption that everyone knows where in fact, everyone is confused.  Also, doing read backs would be immensely useful. Read backs are when the leader, after having delivered his stand, clarifies them by asking his team to repeat what he just said. This is a technique I always employ with my staff, for it is a sure way to see if they have grasped the gist of what I have said. And you may be surprised to know that more often than not, there is always something that I can further correct from their account. Does this mean that there is something wrong with me or my staff? Does this mean that they have not been listening? Certainly not! This epitomises the fact that in our communication, we naturally and unconsciously alter the meaning of what we say and hear by deleting, distorting and generalising the information. Using the read back can hence undo these natural tendencies of ours and achieve clarity as a result.

Being clear and specific about our expectations is imperative should we want to successfully set and maintain standards for our team. Overlooking this detail would be costly and may leave everyone confused and frustrated. As successful leaders, achieving clarity is certainly something which we would want to master.

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