Tag Archives: expectations

Is Dressing for Success an Outdated Concept?

28 Apr


With what I am observing in organizations today, it appears that employees are increasingly caring less and less about their appearance. To put it a little more bluntly, it seems like “dress down Friday” has become “dress down Monday thru Friday” in many organizations. This trend got me thinking about what would happen if John T Molloy’s top selling book in 1975, Dress for Success, were to hit the bookshelves today? Would it still be the bestseller that it was back in the late 70s? Would organizations actually change any of their dress codes? Most importantly, would the author’s message gain any traction and cause individuals to change the way they dress? Being pessimistic, I don’t think Molloy’s book as written in the 70s would even get considered a “must read” among today’s office workers! But why is this and why the pessimism? And what has changed in the past 20 or so years that made “dress own Friday” “dress down Everyday” in most workplace settings?

Well, for one thing the social notion of personal rights has been extended to how we dress in our workplaces. I have been told, as probably you may have, that dressing according to your own taste is your personal right. Furthermore, I think a kind of revolution erupting out of the 90s against the wearing of ties, suits, dress shirts, skirts and just about anything pressed in the workplace, has created a kind of “anti conformity” or redefined cool when it comes to dress. Ironically, nothing could be more conformist than today’s dress down climate! And, while most organizations seem to be okay with the notion of “casual dress”, few have been successful in defining where to draw the line between just plain ugly and casual.

But consider this, have you ever been overlooked for a promotion or have not been given opportunities to take on challenging and visible assignments within the organization? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then perhaps it’s time to look into the mirror.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that dress is essential to being successful. However, try being successful without dressing well! Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that you dust off Molloy’s book either. Rather, what I am suggesting is your choice of how you dress signals an attitude that influences how others think about you. Why else do we dress up for a job interview?

No one has said anything to you about your dress? That’s not surprising.  In today’s politically correct atmosphere, where there is a heightened sensitivity to anything negative, bosses and colleagues are most likely not going to say anything for fear of hurting your feelings or infringing on your sacred “personal rights”. So, rather than take a risk, it’s easier for them to say nothing at all.

One thing is for sure; don’t think that poor dress is going unnoticed. Sounds a little over the top? Well, think about this: if you subscribe to the idea that a cluttered desk equates to a cluttered mind, then what’s the corollary to someone who dresses in a careless and sloppy way?

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Promoting Open Communications in a Team Setting

3 Feb

In any team environment, people need to feel appreciated. One meaningful way to let team members know they are valued is to create a setting where people feel that what they have to say is listened to. So, whether as the leader of a for-profit work team or a volunteer team, if you are desirous of promoting open communications within your team, the following ideas are worth implementing or following:

  •  A team leader’s role needs to be clear, understood and accepted by the team. Team leaders have a choice as to how they approach leading the team. They can take the lead and utilize a “team-driver” approach where they take an active lead or they can function more in a “team coach” role where team members are accountable to one another. Regardless of the approach, the leader’s role must be clearly understood.
  • As the leader, determine when to criticize the team as a whole, or individual team members separately. A good rule of thumb followed by many team leaders is if the issue involves three or more team members, then it’s acceptable to bring up the issue to the entire team. If the issue involves only one or two team members it’s best to address the issue(s) one-on-one.
  • Create a team atmosphere for the acceptance of criticism by establishing team run rules or guidelines for criticism. Such rules should include:
    • Avoid public name-calling.
    • Throwing someone under the bus is not acceptable.
    • Openly admit mistakes.
    • Assume positive intent of the giver of criticism.
    • Don’t criticize by email.
    • Do not shoot the bearer of bad news.
    • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Team leaders cannot assume that merely stating the goals of the team equates to acceptance by all team members. To ensure that team members are committed to the stated goals of the team, it’s best to ask. Start off by meeting individually to promote an open and candid conversation. Leaders can’t afford a “go along to get along” mentality.
  • Establish a process whereby team members assess how well the team is functioning.
  • Show leadership by admitting mistakes.

Today’s teams are complex.  For teams to be successful, leaders need to go beyond the superficial. Instead of just talking about “open communications” leaders need to work to bring this dynamic to life for the team.

Using the Matched Relationship Expectations Package

24 Jan

Any meaningful relationship, whether in the workplace, with friends, or at home, has as its foundation a clearly established matched relationship expectations package.

A matched relationship expectations package is a negotiated agreement between two or more people in which the important expectations of each have been expressed and essentially harmonized.  Building a matched expectations package goes beyond simply talking and involves engaging in an open exchange for the purpose of establishing a mutual understanding. By engaging in a meaningful exchange, each party gets to know what the other wants and needs in an effort to work effectively, directly, and build a trusting relationship

Besides defining the employee’s job in relation to organizational (and personal) goals, a matched expectations package will also include a discussion of the work relationship between manager and employee, as well as an identification and validation of unspoken expectations.

Both managers and employees benefit when expectations are clarified at the outset. Job performance is heightened as work gets done accurately and with quality, energy is positively directed, and there is a greater willingness to be more open and honest on the part of both manager and employee. When mutual expectations are kept, ironically, there is less of a need to criticize. Expectation packages are the architect’s blueprint to building strong relationships.

Get on the Same Page-Get in Tune with Others

20 Jun

While at work, you get a call from your mate. The call isn’t unusual, but what you are hearing is: Your mate has just been offered a great deal on a new car. Immediately, your mind races as you reply, “You know I hate SUV’s and don’t care for leather seats.”   Your mate responds by saying, “But sweetheart, this is such a great deal. I don’t want to turn this one down. Let’s talk about it later.”  Suddenly, you hear yourself saying “OK” and hanging up the phone.

Your day isn’t over yet. Several days ago, you asked a peer in the sales department to give you some sales projections on a couple of products, and he has failed to get back to you. You’re really feeling pressured, because these numbers are to be incorporated into a larger budget report. He explains that he’s almost finished, and by late afternoon he’ll have everything ready. You say fine, but you think to yourself that his lateness is going to put you under the gun, because you really like to proof things carefully before sending them on to your boss. Afternoon arrives, and he hands you the sales projections. After glancing at the figures, you notice that he gave you projections for one, two, and three years in advance. You feel a tinge of anger run down your spine as you explain that all you needed were figures for a single year in advance. Besides saying he’s sorry, he tells you, “I thought you would have wanted to see some more figures. One year seemed inadequate, and I thought that more numbers would be helpful. If I had known, I could have gotten this to you a lot sooner.”

When you recover from that incident, you decide to check your e-mail messages. To your surprise, you get a short note from your boss with an attachment. You go to the attachment, only to find out that one of your customers contacted your boss directly about a matter that you were in the process of handling. Once again, you feel your stress level rising as you ask yourself, “How could my customer bypass me and go to my boss without telling me?”

What do these three snapshot scenes have in common? On the surface, what’s going on appears to be a communications problem. If we look more deeply, though, it becomes apparent that the expectations of the parties involved in all three situations are unmatched. Unmatched expectations span the spectrum from simple, everyday exchanges to more persistent or extensive matters. We all have expectations for ourselves and for others; expectations exist in our relationships at work as well as in our relationships with family and friends. Strong relationships are always rooted in matched expectations.

Big or small, important or insignificant, whenever expectations are unmatched, frustration levels rise and desired outcomes are put at risk. Being able to “move” forward is difficult. So what’s needed first is to listen for and pay attention to expectations that are matched.

Even though you cannot have total control, you can pay attention to and watch for expectations that are matched- prior to taking what happens around you.

The Matched Expectation Package

18 Jun

A matched expectations package is exactly what it sounds like: a set of expectations that is discussed and mutually agreed upon by two or more people. Building a matched expectations package goes beyond simply talking and involves engaging in an open exchange for the purpose of establishing a mutual understanding. Thus, the matched expectations package is a negotiated agreement as opposed to a one-way exchange in which one person does all the explaining about expectations. By engaging in a meaningful exchange, each party gets to know what the others want and need in an effort to build a relationship. We commonly engage in an exchange of expectations when interviewing for a job or when starting to date someone. Everything is new and we realize that each party needs to get to know the other and to clarify how best to get along and work together.  We also work to establish matched expectations during everyday communications, whether at work or at home.

Creating a set of matched expectations in any relationship involves clarifying expectations in four key areas: (1) goals; (2) work tasks and roles; (3) work quality; and (4) working relationships.



In today’s fast-moving, multitask environment, it’s easy to let assumptions and instinct take the place of clarifying and mutually agreeing on goals. Surprisingly, when team members are asked do they know the goals of their team or the goal of a particular project, many don’t.

When they are then asked why they don’t try to find out, almost all reply that they are too embarrassed to ask because it is assumed that “everybody knows” and asking might be perceived as incompetent. So, it’s important to clarify goals and get on the same page.

Work Tasks and Roles:

Expectations that surround work tasks and roles get a lot of attention in the workplace. Managers and employees alike have job descriptions and lists of job responsibilities. Still, confusion about tasks can easily set in when you operate in a fast-paced business environment, where today’s high priority becomes tomorrow’s scrapped effort. One of the most common mistakes made when assigning tasks is failure to clarify end results. Emphasis is often placed on “what” to do and left unclear is what the end result is to look like. So, when being asked to do something, be sure to have a clear picture of what the end result needs to look like. Gaining a sense of control requires making sure that expectations are clarified and matched— now more than ever!

Work Quality:

Companies have invested millions of dollars to clarify quality-of – work requirements. But even with formalized standards, on a day-by-day basis we still deal with issues revolving around how certain tasks are not performed at the level of quality expected. The most common assumption is to think a task needs to be done at 100%- when it doesn’t. A good tip is to clarify the level of quality needed as opposed to assuming especially when it comes to preparing PowerPoint presentations!

Working Relationships:

In contrast to the attention paid to work quality, the area of working relationships—or how to interact with each other—has been largely ignored. It’s as if instinct and assumptions are sufficient to get us by. In any group setting but especially at work, you may hear someone labeled as a “people person.” The people person is presumed to have some special means of noticing the wants and needs of others, and even knowing what’s best for them.

There’s no denying that some people seem to have a knack for being sensitive to others and building a rapport, but that talent doesn’t eliminate the need to engage in two-way exchanges of expectations. By the time people reach adulthood, they have amassed a wealth of experiences, from which they have developed preferences regarding common interactions—how they want to be approached when they’ve made a mistake, how they can best be motivated, and so on. Adults like having a chance to express their preferences and to engage in a meaningful exchange about how best to work together.

Working from “assumptions” is a one-way street, and even a people person can assume things incorrectly. Although the incorrect assumptions may not lead to a disaster, they may detract subtly from the construction of a strong working relationship, or the kind of team spirit that fosters exceptional performance.

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5 Jun

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Are You Making the Most of Your Meetings? Idea 3:

24 Apr

3. Make sure people come to the meetings prepared

If assignments were made at the last meeting, a good practice to follow is to check in with each staff person prior to the meeting to make sure they completed their assignments.  When you want the meeting to be an exchange of ideas, go to each of your direct reports and check in with them to make sure they are coming to the meeting with at least two good ideas.  When everyone comes to the meeting with several ideas, the conversation flows, the energy in the meeting builds and in the end, some exciting action items have been generated.

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