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Setting Expectations Is Easier Than You Think

setting expectations with employees

Think about all the people and situations that frustrate you. Now consider what you’re asking for. My hunch is, you’re getting what you ask for.

While most of us aren’t great at telling people when they violate our expectations, we’re not any better at asking for what we want. You might be afraid of appearing demanding or may not feel you have the right to make requests. When you tell people what you expect, you make their lives easier. Think about when someone invites you to their house for dinner. If you have any manners (and I’m sure you do), you ask what you can bring. When the other person says nothing, it makes your job (to be a good guest) harder. Now you have to guess what the other person wants. It would be so much easier if he would just tell you. This also applies to birthday gifts and where to meet for lunch. When people tell you what they want as a gift and where they want to eat, you don’t have to guess and they are easier to please.

It’s much easier to live and work with people when we know what they expect from us. And setting expectations is always easier than giving negative feedback. Negative feedback implies someone did something wrong. And no one likes to be told he is wrong. Setting expectations provides a road map to success, making it easier to win with you.

Here are a few phrases to make setting expectations easier:

Setting expectations example one: Consider saying, “I need time to get settled when I come in in the morning. Will you hold all questions and requests until 10:00 am?” You’re not telling someone she barrages you with questions before you’ve even gotten to your desk in the morning; you’re simply asking for what you need.

Setting expectations example two: You could say, “I like to have things done well before they are due. Will you send me all input for the weekly status report by Wednesday of each week so I have a few days to review your input before I have to submit it?” You’re not telling the person that working with him requires a weekly fire drill; you’re simply making a non-judgmental request.

Setting expectations example three: You could ask, “Would it be possible to touch base once a week via phone during your morning commute so I can get your input on projects?” You’re not telling the person she is impossible to get time with; you’re simply proposing an idea.

One of the keys to getting what you want is make requests in a neutral, non-judgmental way. The more you ask for and the more specific your requests, the easier you are to work with. What you need and want will be clear; there will be no guessing. People may choose to ignore your requests and violate your expectations, and then you’ll provide feedback. But start with making clear and specific requests, and see how many fewer feedback conversations you need to have.

setting expectations with employees

Remote Management – The Phone is Your Friend

managing remote employeesYou probably have coworkers, customers and employees you rarely, if ever, see in person. You might even work for or with someone you’ve never met. While all feedback conversations can be hard, conversations with people we work with remotely seem even more challenging.

If I got a new pair of shoes every time someone said to me, “I’ve got this person and she isn’t (fill in the blank with anything that would trouble you). I’m going to see her in six weeks, so I’ll just have the conversation then.” Waiting six weeks to give feedback is unhelpful and wimpy.

There is nothing you can’t say or do over the phone. I used to think you couldn’t lay someone off via phone, but I’ve done it, so now I know it can be done.

Here are eight tips for remote management of employees and all types of working relationships:

 Remote management tip number one: Know that any conversation you can have in person, you can have via phone.

Remote management tip number two: Schedule the same meetings you have with local employees, coworkers, and customers with those who live/work remotely. When you talk with people regularly, giving feedback is (hopefully) a part of your regular conversations. Having a feedback conversation with someone you rarely talk with will probably be more difficult.

Remote management tip number three: Set clear expectations for how often you want to meet and the purpose of the meetings. Tell people that you will discuss the same things via phone as you would in person and invite them to do the same.

Remote management tip number four: Work hard not to cancel meetings and reschedule all cancelled meetings as soon as possible. Time goes by so fast. By the time you know it, a month will have passed and you still won’t have had ‘that’ conversation.

Remote management tip number five: If you’re not a phone person, force yourself to have the conversations. If you’d prefer to use video conferencing, skype or Facetime, do that. Although for remote employees that will require not wearing pajamas, and they might not like that.

Remote management tip number six: Keep phone meetings shorter than in-person meetings. It’s easy to become distracted via phone. Keep meetings focused and short.

Remote management tip number seven: Give feedback verbally. Don’t rely on email to deliver hard messages. It’s easy to send feedback via email with people you work with remotely. You can’t manage the tone of written feedback the way you can during a live conversation.

Remote management tip number eight: Use whatever form of communication remote coworkers and customers prefer to schedule meetings. If they’re texters, text. If they like email, use that. You’ll get better participation and responses from people when you use their preferred method of communication.

One of our vendors isn’t a phone person. Her ringer is typically off. So if I call without warning, I get voicemail. So I text her, tell her a need to talk with her, and ask when is a good time. Then my calls get answered. You may be thinking, “Vendors work for you. You shouldn’t have to do that.” Maybe. But I try hard to live in the world of what works versus what’s right. When I communicate with people how they like to communicate, I get a better response, and you will too.

Approach remote business relationships just as you would in-person relationships. Schedule regular meetings. Pick up the phone to deal with tough issues, don’t fall back on email to give feedback. And don’t wait. The time to have any challenging conversation is now. You can do it. Pick up the phone.

managing remote employees

How to Give Feedback – Worried You Might Not Say It Right?

how to give feedback

Many people worry about giving feedback because they fear they don’t have the ‘right’ words. They’re concerned they’ll say ‘it’ wrong and damage their relationships.

Feedback is hard enough to give without worrying about saying everything perfectly. Worry less about having all the right words and more about whether or not people trust your motives.

When people trust your motives – why you’re giving feedback – you can say almost anything. When they don’t trust your motives you can say almost nothing.

Getting negative feedback is hard. It’s easier to listen to feedback when we trust the person who’s giving us the feedback – we know their intentions are to help versus to judge or hurt us.

Speak from the heart, be authentic, and worry less. Be yourself. If you’re nervous to say what you want to say, tell the other person you’re nervous. If you’re struggling to find the right words, say so. If you’re worried you’ll damage the relationship or that it isn’t your role to give the feedback, say that. Authenticity goes a long way.

How’s how to give feedback you’re apprehensive about:

How to give feedback phrase one: Consider saying, “There’s something I need to talk with you about but I’m concerned that I won’t use the right words and will damage our relationship.”

How to give feedback phrase two: “There’s something I want to talk with you about, but I’m concerned how it will come across. Is it ok if I say what I need to say?”

How to give feedback phrase three: “I want to give you my thoughts on something but I’m concerned that it’s not my place to do so. Is it ok if I share my ideas about _________?”

Other people aren’t expecting you to be perfect. But they do want to know they’re working with a human being. And human beings are fallible. We have fears. We make mistakes. And sometimes we don’t say things perfectly.

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be real.

how to give feedback

Receiving Feedback Allows You to Manage Your Career

Who have you fired lately? The person who cuts your hair or lawn? A doctor, accountant, or restaurant where you had a bad experience? Did you call any of those providers and tell them why you were replacing them? My hunch is no. There’s little incentive to do so. Why risk their defensiveness? It’s easier to just replace themreceiving feedback. And the same is true for you.

There’s little incentive for the people you work with to tell you when you frustrate them. The perceived cost seems too high. The people you work (and live) with have experienced others’ defensive responses to negative feedback (which is no fun) and they don’t want to experience your reaction. As a result, when you disappoint or frustrate others, it’s easier to say nothing than tell you the truth.

The tendency for others to tell you things are fine when they’re not will prevent you from managing your career and relationships. People will go missing and/or you’ll be passed over for professional opportunities and never know why.

To make it more likely that people will tell you when you disappoint or frustrate them, make it easy to tell you the truth.

Here are a seven practices for receiving feedback:

Receiving Feedback Practice #1: When you begin new relationships, tell people you want their feedback.

Receiving Feedback Practice #2: Promise that no matter what people say, you’ll respond with “thank you.” This is very hard to do.

Receiving Feedback Practice #3: Tell people you already have relationships with that if you haven’t said it in the past, you really want their feedback and promise to respond graciously with “thank you.”

Receiving Feedback Practice #4: Ask people who matter to you for feedback regularly.

Receiving Feedback Practice #5: Resist the urge to get defensive.

Receiving Feedback Practice #6: Catch yourself when you start to become defensive and apologize. Say something like, “I’m getting defensive. I’m sorry. Tell me again. I’ll do a better job of listening.”

Receiving Feedback Practice #7: Take a break from conversations during which you find yourself responding defensively. Say something like, “I’m not responding as well as I’d like. How about we take a break? Give me a few minutes (hours or days) and I’ll come back to you to talk more. I really want to hear what you have to say.”

The aforementioned list provides recommendations for asking for and receiving feedback you want, not feedback you don’t. You are not a dumping ground. Don’t ask for feedback you don’t want. And when you do ask for feedback, qualify what type of feedback you’re looking for. Telling people “I want your feedback” doesn’t mean they’re welcome to say whatever they want.

The purpose of asking for feedback and making it safe to tell the truth is to give you more control over your career and relationships. It’s ok to be passed over for opportunities and relationships, but it’s unhelpful not to know why.

receiving feedback

Five Ways to Improve Workplace Communication – Share Ideas and Work Less

I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting with other department leaders, at my last job, and hearing that another department was working on the very thing that my department had been working on for months. We were a lean organization. No one had time for unnecessarily redundant work. And yet there were two departments working on the same project without knowing it.

workplace communication

As crazy as it sounds, this isn’t uncommon. People often know very little about what others across their organization do. Sometimes people on the same team don’t even know what type of work fellow team members are doing. This lack of knowledge can lead to conflict (i.e. get off my turf), wasted resources, and stale ideas. If you know two departments are working to solve similar challenges, sharing ideas is likely to generate better solutions.

Friday is National Swap Ideas Day. This sounds like a cheesy, invented holiday, but we’ve all been frustrated or constrained by a lack of sharing of ideas in our workplaces. So in honor of this invented holiday, here are five ways to find out what others in your organization are doing in the hopes of sharing more ideas and resources.

Workplace Communication Tip #1: This will sound basic, but be sure to let the people and departments impacted by your work know what you’re doing. I.e., if you’re advertising a new product, let the folks in fulfillment know they need to staff up the day the advertisement hits prospects’ and clients’ offices or they may not have enough people to fulfill orders. I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve made this mistake at Candid Culture. Oops.

Workplace Communication Tip #2: Create opportunities for departments who impact each other to communicate on a regular basis. Either literally get teams together quarterly to discuss what they’re working on, or if that’s not feasible, select liaisons from each department to meet regularly and discuss current and upcoming projects.

During the discussions, ask these questions:

  • What are you working on?
  • What challenges are you having?
  • What are you trying to change?
  • How can we help you?
  • What are you working on that we could do together?
  • How could our departments work better together?

Workplace Communication Tip #3: Widen your net and ask people you typically don’t have a lot (or any) contact with for their ideas on something you’re working on. Someone doesn’t necessarily need deep knowledge or expertise to offer a suggestion, they just need to think differently than you do.

Workplace Communication Tip #4: Be open to help, new ideas, and sharing projects. It’s easy to feel threatened and territorial at work, thinking that if someone else can do what you do, that you become extraneous. It’s not easy to find employees who are hardworking, reliable, effective, and low drama. Bring all of those qualities to work, and you have nothing to worry about. So start sharing.

Workplace Communication Tip #5: Keep up whatever idea-sharing practice you start. It’s common to try one of the ideas suggested above and then let the practice lapse when things get busy. Put processes in place to make sharing ideas the normal way that you work.

You likely have enough to do. You don’t need to be working on projects that someone else is working on. And sometimes hearing how a coworker would approach a problem will give you a solution you need. Share ideas. Work together across teams and departments and maybe you’ll end working less.

workplace communication

Hug Your Boss Day – 6 Ways to Thank A Good Boss

Having a good manager is key to a happy life. A good manager can make your job (and life) a happy experience. A bad manager can make your job (and life) hell. If you’ve worked long enough to have both good and bad boss’s, you already know this. Having a good manager is worth a lot.

If you’re lucky enough to have a good manager, say “thank you” on National Hug Your Boss Day, this Friday. Don’t physically hug her, of course. She isn’t likely to appreciate that. But there are lots of other ways to say “thank you.”

I don’t think it’s appropriate for employees to buy managers gifts. But there are lots of ways to show appreciation without spending money. Think about what’s meaningful to you. I’m sure an email containing positive feedback, a handwritten note, or a positive verbal comment all feel good to you, and they’ll feel good to your boss as well.

hug your boss day

Here are six ways to show your boss you appreciate her on hug your boss day:

Hug your boss day idea #1: Send your boss an email, telling her some of the things she does that make you feel valued and that make your organization a good place to work. Be as specific as you can. Specific feedback is more meaningful, authentic, and helpful than vague generalities. For example, rather than saying, “You’re such a great boss! I really appreciate you,” considering saying something like, “I really appreciate the time you take teaching me about our business. I’ve learned a lotl in the past six months.” When you give specific feedback your boss will know what she does that’s meaningful to you, making it more likely that she’ll replicate that behavior in the future. If you provide specific feedback, you’ll both get something out of the recognition you provide.

Hug your boss day idea #2: Write her a handwritten note. A handwritten note is more impactful than an email. It’s so rare for anyone to get a handwritten note, let alone from a direct report, it’s something your boss will appreciate and keep for a long time. Like the suggestion above, be sure to provide specific feedback about what your boss does that you appreciate.

Hug your boss day idea #3: Equally impactful to a handwritten note is to talk to your boss in person. Giving verbal feedback may feel a little weird if it’s not something you do often, but she’ll appreciate the risk you took in being honest and vulnerable to make her feel appreciated.

Hug your boss day idea #4: Have your team write and act out a skit for your manager. This may sound corny, but skits are a fun and unique way to thank your boss, and something she likely hasn’t experienced before. During the skit, demonstrate some of the things your boss does that team members appreciate. Ham it up. It’ll be fun and she’ll learn a lot about what’s important to the team.

Hug your boss day idea #5: Write a song that tells your boss what you appreciate about her and have your team perform it. Like skits, this is a fun team activity that will be memorable for everyone. Have whomever on your team  loves stuff like this spearhead the effort versus the person who is tortured by it.

I realize that skits and songs may not sound fun. In fact, some of you might now feel physically ill. In my experience, people typically roll their eyes at first and then end up having a great time. Try it! Teams that post a picture of themselves performing a skit or a song for their boss on our Facebook page will be entered in a contest to receive free Candor Bars (very delicious chocolate bars) How’s that for an incentive?!

Hug your boss day idea #6: Have a pot luck lunch. This is a good opportunity for the team to spend time together. Just make sure you pick food she likes. If my team brought in Mexican food (I’m not a fan. I know I’m weird), I’d know that they really didn’t like me. Are you guys reading this???

Don’t take a good boss for granted. Find a way to say “thank you” this Friday that will be meaningful to her.

Working with Difficult People – When to Give Up

Working with Difficult PeopleUnless you never interact with other people, there’s probably someone in your life who repeatedly engages in a behavior that annoys you. You’ve probably made requests about what you’d like to the person to do differently, and hopefully you’ve given feedback. But the behavior hasn’t changed.

At some point, we have to accept that people are who and how they are. People can and will change certain behaviors, if their motivation is high enough. But other behaviors won’t change. They are what they are. And if you want to have the person in your personal or professional life, you have to accept the behavior and the person as they are. And doing this can be very difficult, at least it is for me. I admit, I often have this conversation myself, “Why won’t he…? I don’t get it. It’s not that hard. How many times do I have to ask?”

Here are five strategies for working with difficult people:

Working with difficult people strategy one: Become very clear on the behavior(s) you expect.

Working with difficult people strategy two: Make a request and ask the person to do what you want. Be sure you are being explicitly clear in your request. For example, “Please include me in meetings” is too vague. Instead, try, “Please invite me to all client meetings so I can stay connected to the clients and projects.”

Working with difficult people strategy three: Make requests at least three times. With each successive request (nicely) remind the person that you’ve made this request in the past and it still isn’t happening. For example, “We’ve talked about this in the past and it isn’t happening. Help me understand what’s happening?”

Working with difficult people strategy four: If you’ve made a request at least three times, give feedback as to what isn’t happening and why that causes challenges. For example, “We’ve talked about inviting me to client meetings a few times. It’s still not happening. I’m getting calls from clients with questions I can’t answer because I’m not included in the meetings. Can you help me understand why I’m not being invited to meetings?” Read chapters nine through eleven and chapter thirteen of How to Say Anything to Anyone to get more examples of how to give clear and specific feedback.

Working with difficult people strategy five: Know when to give up and accept the person and behavior as they are. If you’ve made a request and have given feedback three times, you likely aren’t going to get what you want. The person either can’t do what you’re asking or doesn’t want to. Now you have a decision to make.

Decide how important this behavior is. Is it a deal breaker? If it’s a deal breaker, you can’t work or live with the person. If it’s not a deal breaker stop expecting the behavior to happen and accept that it won’t. When you accept that you won’t get what you want from someone you’ll suffer less.

Strategy five is really the crux of this blog. Knowing when to stop expecting something and coming to peace with that decision will give you great freedom. In order to let go of the expectation you have to decide that it’s really ok for you not to get what you want. Ask yourself, “Can I live with this behavior as it is?” If you can’t, you have a hard decision to make. If you can, then stop expecting and asking for the behavior. Truly let it go. You’ll feel better.

Working with Difficult People

Honored to be Quoted in Fast Company – Shari Harley

I’m honored to have been quoted in Fast Company’s article on how to give negative feedback.  Check it out.


Constructive criticism also brings out defensiveness. “Human beings are hardwired to defend themselves when receiving negative feedback,” says Shari Harley, founder and president of the management-training firm Candid Culture and author of How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work. “You can’t eliminate people’s defensive reactions to negative feedback, but you can reduce it, making feedback easier to hear and act upon,” she says.

4. Don’t “save up” your negative feedback

People often hoard feedback until a situation becomes so frustrating that they can’t help but speak up, says Harley. “Because they waited too long to say what they think, many more words come tumbling out than is either necessary or helpful.”

Instead, make it a practice to give small amounts of feedback at a time—one or two strengths and areas for improvement during a conversation. People cannot focus on more than one or two things at a time, says Harley.

5. Be timely but not immediate

Give feedback close to the time of an event, but not when you’re upset, says Harley.

“The time to fix a problem is when no one is upset,” she says. “I call this practice the 24-hour guideline and the one-week rule: Wait 24 hours to give feedback if you’re upset, but not longer than a week after an event occurs.”

6. Finally, be discreet

“Praise in public, criticize in private,” says Harley. Make sure all negative feedback discussions happen behind a closed door.

Click here to read the entire article at

Reduce Work Overload – Ask for Help

work overloadIt’s not easy to admit when we’re overwhelmed and need help. In fact, it’s such a hard thing to say that instead of asking for help, most of us either work harder or longer or job hunt.

Admitting work overload isn’t a weakness and it isn’t bad. It’s all in how you handle it.

If you find yourself with work overload and you aren’t sure what to do, consider taking these four steps.

Eliminate work overload step one: Every time you find yourself doing something that someone else could and should do, write it down, including how much time the task took. Doing this will create awareness of how much time you spend doing things that may not be the best use of your skills and experience. Then work with whomever you need to in your organization to align that work where it belongs. This practice isn’t to make you sound like an entitled prima donna. It’s an entrepreneurial way to approach your work.

The highest and best use of my time at Candid Culture is talking to current or future clients, writing new material, and delivering keynote presentations or training programs. I really shouldn’t do anything else. I can do a lot of things – like talk to vendors, count inventory, order supplies, and pack product orders – but none of those things add value to the business the way speaking, training, writing and spending time with clients does.

The business owner’s mantra is, “If I can pay someone less than I get paid to do something, I should do that.” Consider how you can apply that practice to your workplace, without appearing to be someone who won’t ‘wash windows.’ Meaning, you don’t want to be or appear to be someone who isn’t willing to do grunt work. Every job has it. But those lower level tasks shouldn’t be where you spend most of your time, unless your job description and annual goals say so.

Eliminate work overload step two: Watch out for and eliminate time suckers. This includes people, problems, and processes. If you find yourself in meetings all day long, consider which meetings you can skip or send someone else on your team. If someone in your office swings by daily to have personal conversations, tell the person, “I’d love to talk with you and I’m working under a deadline. Can we catch up later?”

Lots of people are at work longer than they need to be because of time spent talking with coworkers they don’t know how to ask to go away. You’re doing everyone a favor when you end conversations that are distracting. If you really want to talk about what’s happening with your coworkers’ kids, mother-in-law, and home renovation, go to lunch or happy hour.

Eliminate work overload step three: Sometimes doing 110% percent isn’t important. Notice when you’re doing more than you need to and when that additional work doesn’t add significant value. I.e., you put together a PowerPoint presentation and then spent five more hours printing and stuffing folders to put the presentation in. Next time, focus on the content and worry less about the aesthetics.

Eliminate work overload step four: Lastly, know when and how to ask for help. The last organization where I worked, before starting Candid Culture, was very fast paced and lean. I worked all the time and consistently felt overwhelmed. I eventually went to my boss to ask for help. I made a list of everything I was working on and asked him to rate each item based on how important he saw the project/task. He put an “A” next to the things that needed to get done first, a “B” next to the things that came next, and a “C” next to the things that were the least important. He told me to do the A’s first, then the B’s, and if I got to the C’s, great, if not, no problem.

The meeting was eye opening for me. I assumed he thought everything on my list was an “A” and that left me stressed with an inability to prioritize. Hearing how he perceived my workload reduced my anxiety and gave me permission to ease up on projects I’d previously considered timely.

Don’t suffer in silence. But do approach reducing work overload in a positive way. Rather than whining to your boss and coworkers, end conversations that you know are a time drain, limit work that doesn’t add significant value, and ask for help prioritizing when you can’t do it for yourself.

work overload

How to Change Your Reputation at Work – Eight Steps

How to change your reputation If you took my advice last week and asked your boss who impacts the decisions made about you at work and what those people think of you, you probably got some feedback. The question is, what should you do with the feedback?

We know impressions are made quickly and are hard to change. But it’s not impossible to repair your reputation. If you want to change how people see you, I’d suggest being very overt about the changes you’ve made. Don’t simply alter your behavior and wait for people to notice. They likely won’t.

Once people have formed an opinion about you, that’s often their opinion for as long as they know you. For example, if you have a tendency to be late, even if you periodically show up on time, your friends and coworkers will think of you as the person who is always late. If you work with someone who tends to miss deadlines, even if she periodically turns work in on time, you’ll think of her as someone who misses deadlines.

Once people make a decision about us, that’s often how they’ll see us for the duration our relationship. So if you want to repair your reputation, you’re going to have to do it overtly. Making changes and hoping people notice, won’t produce the desired result.

Here Are Eight Steps to Repair Your Reputation:

  1. Ask people who can impact your reputation and whose judgment you trust for feedback.
  2. Work hard to manage yourself and not get defensive. Respond to all feedback, no matter how hard it is to hear or how invalid it may feel with, “Thank you for telling me that. I’m going to think about what you said. I may come back to talk more later.”
  3. Once you’ve absorbed the feedback, decide what, if any, changes you will make.
  4. Change your behavior for a period of weeks.
  5. Return to the people who gave you feedback, tell them about the behavior changes you’ve made, and ask them to observe your behavior.
  6. Tell the people who gave you feedback that you’ll ask them for feedback again in a few weeks, and you want to know what they see.
  7. Return to the people who gave you feedback and ask what changes they have or haven’t noticed.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 at least quarterly. Everyone periodically does things that can damage their reputation.

Overtly pointing out the behavior changes you’ve made, asking people who are important to you to pay attention, and give you additional feedback, is key to altering your reputation. Most people working to change their reputation don’t do this. They make behavior changes and hope others notice. If you want to alter your reputation and how others see you, you need to do so overtly. Tell people the changes you’ve made; don’t make them guess. Ask people to observe your behavior, and then ask for more feedback. And no matter how hard the feedback is to hear, don’t get defensive. Becoming defensive will ensure you don’t get feedback the next time you ask.

How to change your reputation

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