Be clear on what’s expected of you in your job. Agree on what success looks like. Don’t be shy. Ask how you’re going to be judged. I learned how important this is when I interned for Procter and Gamble in the summer of 1986.
I wanted my own apartment near the office, but my budget was too tight. I could only afford to rent a room in a suburban home. We’ll call the owner of the home Mrs. Johnson.In order to reduce the rent that was advertised, I suggested to Mrs. Johnson that I could cut her lawn during the summer. She agreed, and I moved in the next day – my first day on the job with Procter and Gamble. I worked hard that first week, logging in more than seventy hours. When Friday night came around, I was tired. After dinner I went straight to bed.
Now do you ever get the sense that someone is staring at you? You can tell without even opening your eyes, or looking in their direction. Well, the next morning I had that feeling…and then I heard a voice.
“David, it’s time to get up.” It was Mrs. Johnson.
She said it again, “David, it’s time to get up.” It was 7:00a.m. on a Saturday.
I said, “What?! Why?!”
Mrs. Johnson answered in a cheery, but demanding voice, “It’s time to get up and mow the lawn and clean the pool.”
I couldn’t believe it! First, why is Mrs. Johnson waking me up to do my chores at 7:00a.m.?! Second, when did I get assigned to clean the pool?! And third, what is Mrs. Johnson doing in my room?!
The answer to these questions is simple: This is what you get when you don’t clarify and agree on expectations in a business relationship. So, you can bet I quickly sorted out my agreement with Mrs. Johnson. And we put it in writing.We discussed my job (mowing the lawn), how it should be done (cut medium length with the lawnmower tracks running east to west), and when it should be completed (by 5:00p.m. each Sunday). My summer with Mrs. Johnson taught me the importance of setting and agreeing upon business outcomes with your boss, your employees, your suppliers, and your customers. There should be no surprises, unless they’re good ones.
“Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his own route toward these outcomes.” This was one of the key findings of two Gallup Organization studies involving over 80,000 managers and more than 1 million employees. Managers who followed this principle were the most successful in the Gallup study. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (Gallup consultants at the time) related the results of this research in First, Break All the Rules. Buckingham and Coffman wrote, “Keep the focus on outcomes: The role of a company is to identify the desired end. The role of the individual is to find the best means possible to achieve that end. Therefore strong companies become experts in the destination and give the individual the thrill of the journey.”
Take the guesswork out of success; agree on how it will be measured. If you don’t, you’ll have someone like Mrs. Johnson waking you up someday.