Archive for November, 2012

A Tale of Two Interns, or: How Clear Expectations Create Employee Success

Recently I had the pleasure of interacting with two students, one in high school and one in college.  I did not supervise them but simply became part of their life conversation.  At the time, both of them had internships, and I made it a point to ask how that was working for them.  I got two completely different stories that illustrate an important point about employee performance:  clear expectations get great results, and lack of expectations creates chaos.

Intern One worked for an artist.  She was hired to organize the artist’s admittedly chaotic contact list and calendar.  You would think this would be the “chaos” story – but no, the artist knew what she needed and described it very clearly.  When everything was organized, the artist would be able to find contact information for anyone she had spoken with, and her calendar would reflect accurately where and when she was performing.  The tool would be easy to use for someone not all that comfortable with technology. The intern trained the artist on using her new contact list and calendar, and she now feels in control of her professional life.

Intern Two was not so lucky.  She worked on a political campaign and initially was quite enthusiastic about the candidate.  But, as the weeks progressed, she was bounced from assignment to assignment with no direction, and then blamed when things did not go as planned.  She was asked to work extra hours and then told she was not needed after she rearranged her schedule.  She even tried to create a FAQ so that everyone would be on the same page around internal processes.  The result?  Her manager berated her for trying to run the show.

Bottom line:  you can’t expect results if you cannot describe clearly what you need and provide the tools to get the job done.  Intern Two was even willing to help create a tool, but that was perceived as threatening to the people in charge.  If you want your employees to go “above and beyond” set clear expectations, then get out of the way.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site or call her at 614-395-9440