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I ran across this in a management-related book. I'm leaning toward including it with "welcome aboard" materials to new hires (as well as distributing to existing ee's after a few weeks with the team.) I'm interested in your thoughts ...

[quote]Dear Employee:

You’ve been hired to handle some pressing needs we have. If we could have gotten by in not hiring you, we would have. But we’ve determined that we needed someone with your skills and experience and that you were the best person to help us with our needs. We have offered you the position and you’ve accepted. Thanks!

During the course of your employment, you will be asked to do many things: general responsibilities, specific assignments, group and individual projects. You will have many chances to excel and to confirm that we made a good choice in hiring you.

However, there is one foremost responsibility that may never be specifically requested of you but that you need to always keep in mind through the duration of your employment. This is The Ultimate Expectation, and it is as follows:

[b]ALWAYS DO WHAT MOST NEEDS TO BE DONE WITHOUT WAITING TO BE ASKED.[/b]

We’ve hired you to do a job, yes, but more important, we’ve hired you to think, use your judgment and act in the best interests of the organization at all times.

If we never say this again, don’t take it as an indication that it’s no longer important or that we’ve changed our priorities. We are likely to get caught up in the daily press of business, the never-ending changes of the operation, and the gongoing rush of avtivities. Our day-to-day practices may make it look like this principle no longer applies. Don’t be deceived by this.

Please don’t ever forget The Ultimate Expectation. Strive to have it always be a guiding principle in your employment with us, a philosophy that is always with you, one that is constantly driving your thoughts and actions.

As long as you are employed with us, you have our permission to act in our mutual best interests.

If at any time you do not feel we are doing the right thing – the thing you most believe would help us all – please say so. You have our permission to speak up when necessary to state what is unstated, to make a suggestion, or to question an action or decision.

This doesn’t mean we will always agree with you, nor that we will necessarily change what we are doing; but we always tant to hear what you most believe would help us better achieve our goals and purpose and to create a mutually successful experience in the process.

You will need to seek to understand how (and why) things are done the way they are done before you seek to change existing work processes. Try to work with the systems at are in place first, but tell us if you think those systems need to be changed.

Discuss what is presented here with me and other sin the organization so that we might all become better at applying The Ultimate Expectation.

Sincerely,

Your Manager

P.S.: Like much sound advice, The Ultimate Expectation seems like common sense. Don’t confuse what sounds simple with what is easy to do. Take this message to heart and become skilled at applying it to your own job and circumstances. One you learn The Ultimate Expectation, you must apply it on a daily basis to your work. Accepting this challenge is paramount to your success with us, in your career and in your life.[/quote]
So if you were a new-hire, how would this read / come across to you? From a manager you barely know, I think it might be different than coming from a built-up relationship and known quantities.

svgates's picture

Agree with the fundamental content; don't find the actual presentation compelling (far too long.)

PS - I'm a fine one to talk. On a daily basis, I need to shove a sock in it. :oops:

TomW's picture

[quote="ashdenver"]So if you were a new-hire, how would this read / come across to you? From a manager you barely know, I think it might be different than coming from a built-up relationship and known quantities.[/quote]

Personally, I'd love it. I'd think I worked in a place that at least claimed to want people to be proactive. My next quest would be to observe whether it actually is rewarded or not.

jhack's picture

...and I'd wonder why my new colleagues were so verbose...

:wink:

John

asteriskrntt1's picture
cruss's picture

I would love to hear Mark say this in one paragraph. And then Mike would get it in one sentence.

RobRedmond's picture

I'm with Tom. It's great to want innovation, but saying it doesn't make it so. It's the walk, not the talk, that counts. I was going to respond here, but your posting actually inspired me to author up this just now:

http://strugglingmanager.com/2008/11/24/how-to-encourage-innovation-part-1/

Executive Summary: Encourage innovation by starting to do behaviors that send the signal you are open to it and by stopping the behaviors that tell your folks you are closed to their ideas. A follow-up system (just like coaching - maybe it is coaching!) is a good idea too.

Some podcast suggestions that will support the above... though I think that "inspiring innovation" might be more advanced than the manager tools basics. Without the one on ones, feedback, coaching, delegation already in place, and then knowing how to do brainstorming and hot washes... you are less likely to succeed.

http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/07/brainstorming-part-1-of-2/
http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/07/brainstorming-part-2-of-2/

http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/08/the-art-of-delegation/

-Rob

ashdenver's picture

I would absolutely LOVE it if Mike & Mark could boil it down in a more user-friendly format. I also agree that one needs to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk." I see the letter as a form of a Vision Statement for the team though. (Okay, a lengthy series of statements but you get the drift.) It's not that I'd put the letter out there and that'd be the end of it. This would be the (virtual) framed Vision Statement on the wall of the (virtual) office that would remind ALL of us that we're here to do more than just what's in the job description or on the To-Do List that day.

[u]The key bits in the letter, IMO, were[/u]:

* ALWAYS DO WHAT MOST NEEDS TO BE DONE WITHOUT WAITING TO BE ASKED.

* We’ve hired you to do a job, yes, but more important, we’ve hired you to think, use your judgment and act in the best interests of the organization at all times.

* As long as you are employed with us, you have our permission to act in our mutual best interests.

* You have our permission to speak up when necessary to state what is unstated, to make a suggestion, or to question an action or decision.

* You will need to seek to understand how (and why) things are done the way they are done before you seek to change existing work processes.

* Try to work with the systems at are in place first, but tell us if you think those systems need to be changed.

* Accepting this challenge is paramount to your success with us, in your career and in your life.

With the goal of simplifying, I think I might start with those basic bullet points. The info in Rob's article/blogpost, I think, is more back-end information for us to carry out the "walk" of the "talk." Focusing on the "talk" needs to be the first step, I think. (Kind of like, "If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?")

I would love to read any other interpretations of a more-simplified mission or vision statement regarding this topic. Any takers?!

TomW's picture

I think boiling it down is just the part in bold:
[quote]ALWAYS DO WHAT MOST NEEDS TO BE DONE WITHOUT WAITING TO BE ASKED. [/quote]

That's the biggest part that the passage seems to want.

jhack's picture

It will come down to this: someone will take a risk, or make a decision on their own, and they will fail.

Management's reaction will determine whether anyone ever takes risks or makes decisions again.

John

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="jhack"]It will come down to this: someone will take a risk, or make a decision on their own, and they will fail.

Management's reaction will determine whether anyone ever takes risks or makes decisions again. [/quote]

That's why I would be very cynical if I ever received a communication like that. I've seen far too many occasions where someone has made what, based on what they knew at the time, was a quite reasonable decision or used reasonable, again based on what they knew at the time, initiative...and been punished out of all proportion to the outcome. Even over quite trivial things.

For, a non-hypothetical, example someone calls in sick and one of their colleagues knows they have a meeting with someone, a peer, within the company but on another site. They give that person a courtesy call to just say "Hi, just so you know Bob isn't going to be at that meeting, he called in sick." They then get hauled over the coals for "Exceeding their authority".

Before you go asking employees to start using their initiative then I believe you need to:

1) Commit to communicating everything that can be communicated in a clear and unambiguous manner.
2) Commit to not disciplining directs for using initiative so long as malice cannot be shown and what they did was reasonable (that is they can make a reasonable justification for it) based on the information they had available to them.
3) Brand on the inside of your eyelids (metaphorically speaking) the phrase "People make mistakes, deal with it not them"

Without that they'll only use their initiative once, if that.

Stephen

ashdenver's picture

Which is better ... ?

[u]Situation A[/u]: Having no clue what the expectations will be and stumbling about, hoping to catch glimpses of what management's actions are or blindly guessing at what types of responses could be expected without any frame of reference.

or

[u]Situation B[/u]: Having a slightly cynical point of view after reading The Ultimate Expectation but then maintaining awareness of the stated goal to observe for management actions being aligned with the statements and having a rough idea of what types of responses could be expected through having the frame of reference.

I guess I'm just thinking it's better to say "Here's what's expected & I want us to hold each other accountable to these ideals" than it is to just start doing. I tend to think that many people keep their heads buried in the sand, don't bother looking around, don't expect anything new, different or better and turn a blind eye to anything that isn't the-same-old. Many employees won't pay attention to what the manager is doing, let alone equate those actions to "a new way of doing things" without it being stated as an objective.

Cynical though many people may be, isn't it a good idea to set the bar before proceeding?

jhack's picture

I'm all for it. Just remember: when you tell folks you want them to take initiative, then you have to back them up when they fail. Otherwise, the staff [i][b]will[/b][/i] become cynical order-takers.

Set the bar high, yes, but make sure management's bar is set higher!

John

rwwh's picture

I forgot where I read about the 5 levels of initiative. I hope I can reproduce it here:

1. Wait until you are asked to perform a task.
2. Look around for things that need to be done and ask whether you can do them.
3. Look around for things you can do and tell your boss what you are going to do.
4. Take up work as you see fit, and regularly report to your boss.
5. Take up work as you see fit, and report to your boss when you are done.

The request in the note can be any of 2-5. I always tell people that I require at least 3.

RobRedmond's picture

[quote="jhack"]I'm all for it. Just remember: when you tell folks you want them to take initiative, then you have to back them up when they fail. Otherwise, the staff [i][b]will[/b][/i] become cynical order-takers.

Set the bar high, yes, but make sure management's bar is set higher!

John[/quote]

John is so right, as usual.

In fact, the danger in the message is that any failure on management's part to receive innovation behaviors from directs is likely to be amplified by orders of magnitude if a manifesto is published in advance.

That's why I recommend simply allowing your behavior and management techniques to unleash this potential instead of trying to make grandiose claims. The risk of failure is still there, but at least it won't look like bait and switch. Some might even interpret failure as evil. At the very least, it will look like total lack of love for the employees.

Great managers take risks, but they also are careful not to put troops on the field when they know they will lose. I have to say that the chances you and your staff will not act in a way that slaps the wrists of those attempting to do as you suggest are probably very, very low. Your intentions are pure, that much is certain, but the behavior necessary to pull it off is very, very advanced and requires intense emotional and behavioral control.

I would expect most managers would fail at it and end up having the manifesto thrown back in their faces - if they are lucky enough to be trusted to receive feedback from below them.

-Rob

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="ashdenver"]Which is better ... ?[/quote]

[u]Situation C[/u] where directs are regularly communicated to by their managers so have both the knowledge of what areas they can show initiative in and the knowledge to apply their initiative and have a reasonable probability of doing the right thing.

Watching my manager to try to work out what the goals are? Yikes! I come to work to do a job, hopefully a good job, not to try to work out what my boss actually wants. It's often hard enough to work out what the customers actually want vs what they say they want. I don't think it's unreasonable to hope that when I start a job (or, ideally, through the recruitment process) I'll be told what the team goals are and how those relate to my manager's goals and my own goals (and hopefully those goals will be MT goals). OK, so that doesn't often happen but just because things have been done badly in the past that doesn't mean they have to be done badly in the future.

Stephen

rwwh's picture

[quote="jhack"]I'm all for it. Just remember: when you tell folks you want them to take initiative, then you have to back them up when they fail. Otherwise, the staff [i][b]will[/b][/i] become cynical order-takers.[/quote]

Sure. This is where feedback and o3's come in: you adjust as soon as someone gets a little off-course, you do not let them go very far without correction. But that does not mean you should take the steering wheel from them.

jhack's picture

[quote="rwwh"]...1. Wait until you are asked to perform a task.
2. Look around for things that need to be done and ask whether you can do them.
3. Look around for things you can do and tell your boss what you are going to do.
4. Take up work as you see fit, and regularly report to your boss.
5. Take up work as you see fit, and report to your boss when you are done.

... I always tell people that I require at least [level] 3.[/quote]

Folks who work at levels 4 and 5 can make some big mistakes before the next report (for example, they call a customer to address an issue and enrage the customer instead). You may not have time for course corrections before the mixed metaphorical vehicle hits the proverbial fan. As manager, you need to take the bullet from senior management to protect your folks.

Are you willing to do that?

If you're not, then don't expect them to trust you a second time.

John

RobRedmond's picture

It is a powerful relationship builder between manager and employee when the boss is seen standing up in front of the employee when management attacks, spreading her arms, and saying, "Hands off! It was my call! Talk to me." I have experienced it. It was an awesome thing to see. Most bosses seem to toss their people to the wolves when they get scared.

"When Management Attacks" ought to be a show on cable.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="RobRedmond"]"When Management Attacks" ought to be a show on cable.[/quote]

There have been a fair few shows in recent years of that ilk in the UK. One particular one that sticks in my mind showed a boss who's immediate response to anything that didn't go 100% as he wanted was to fly into a rage and verbally (physically in some cases) attack whichever member of his staff he thought was to blame. e.g. A package he was expecting hadn't arrived when he wanted it to he shouted at the receptionist (getting right into her face as he did it) until she was literally in tears then shouting at her for 'being a wimp'; One of his staff happened to have stepped out to get a sandwich, at lunchtime, when he happened to decide he wanted to speak to them, when they got back he threw a desk at them whilst shouting that he didn't pay them to have lunch (technically true, in most workplaces lunch is unpaid time). Very ineffective behaviour, in my opinion.

There's plenty of examples of very poor management practice on TV. It's just a shame that so many managers seem to emulate it. One friend, at another employer, swears that his boss is trying to copy Sir Alan Sugar's behaviour on "The Apprentice" (despite the fact that Sir Alan himself has said in interviews that that is not how he manages in real life).

Stephen