Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Do You Clearly Establish Employee Expectations?

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Fred Smith - Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Fred Smith – Founder and CEO of FEDEX

Performance driven leaders must establish clear employee expectations if they expect to achieve positive results and outcomes that are totally aligned with their vision, mission, and goals. Fred Smith (FedEx) stated, “When people walk in the door, they want to know: What do you expect out of me? What’s in this deal for me? What do I have to do to get ahead? Where do I go in this organization to get justice if I’m not treated appropriately? They want to know how they’re doing. They want some feedback. And they want to know that what they are doing is important. If you take the basic principles of leadership and answer those questions over and over again, you can be successful dealing with people. The thing that I think is missing in most in business is people who really understand how to deal with rank-and-file employees.”

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy), “who developed a reputation as a talented troubleshooter and effective problem-solver, ensured education and training were priorities and achieved impressive results. Working days, nights, and weekends and expecting his staff to do the same, he refused to compromise when it came to standards and quality. He expected sacrifice from those who worked for him—and from their families.” “Agrees Donald Kendall [Pepsi-Cola]: – ‘There’s only one standard. Once you’re stuck on the flypaper, you’re stuck. If you don’t set a high standard you can’t expect your people to act right.’ ”

The great leaders were and continue to be demanding taskmasters. As illustrated by Rickover and Kendall, they established expectations that also applied to themselves as well as to others. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) is known for creating an entrepreneurial culture laced with fun, but one that does not undermine his expectations. “Bezos expects total dedication from people at Amazon, too, where the hours can be grueling. Says Acting Customer Service Director Jane Slade: ‘This is everyone’s wife, mother, father, baby, whatever.’ He routinely ratchets up goals for managers and often plunges into minute details himself. Slade, for instance, recalls bringing a long list of her job goals to Bezos early on. He handed her his own list, saying: ‘You tell me what’s more important.’ ”

“Never one to rest on his laurels, [David] Packard [Hewlett-Packard] demanded the same from his employees. ‘You shouldn’t gloat about anything you’ve done,’ he told his employees when he stepped down. ‘You ought to keep going and try to find something better to do.’ ”

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press Stevens Point, WI 2011)

 Click here to read a free chapter

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

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