While moving into a new office recently, I stumbled upon four boxes of unused staples that were more than 30 years old.  Flash back to my first business.  I certainly knew my craft, but I hardly knew how to manage a business, yet alone how to manage a team.

The details.  I had a business – my first.  This was before computers and cell phones were the norm.  This was a time for AT&T land lines, receptionist or answering machines and you certainly couldn’t conduct business from your home (or the beach or your camper….).  My first of three employees was Bev.

Bev was earnest, wanted to make a difference and needed to be kept busy. I didn’t have the first clue how to set success measures for her.  So, without a plan to successfully manage the organization as I practiced my craft, I ended that business. I returned to a corporate environment with boxes full of file folders, file labels, legal pads and STAPLES!!”

Without a success rudder and left to her own devices, Bev thought she was doing what the business needed by ensuring we would never run out of office supplies!  Needless to say, my lack of ability to articulate a clear plan with success measures for each person on the team led to the business’ demise and the beginning of my journey on how to be a great leader and manager.  This was my fault, not Bev’s.  She was doing the best she could with what she knew.  I didn’t help her to know any better.

Moral of the story…you must teach your people what success looks like, make sure the training and resources are there and then check in on the progress to inspect the expectations.

Here is what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Expectations begin with the first interview.  Plan your behavioral interviewing questions to ascertain a fit for your environment.  In doing so you also plant the seeds of expectations for success.
  2. On boarding is all about letting your new employee know what success looks like.  From the lay of the land in the office, to introductions to important work partners, to how the welcome tone is set…each of these becomes implicit measures of success.
  3. First week to 30 days of training are for naught without clearly communicated success measures, pointing to the resources available and agreeing on what the check-in process looks like.
  4. Inspect your expectations.  When you have the check-in process articulated, do it!  Check-in and use this time as celebration or re-calibration.
  5. Use feedback and coaching wisely to continue the successful outcomes, redirect the unsuccessful and to re-negotiate or introduce new success measures.

As managers and leaders, we are often lost in our own unconscious competence and we fail to communicate what success looks like.  We assume people know or will figure it out.  Left to their own devices, they may turn into the best purchasing clerks in the world and you, too, could find four boxes of staples thirty years later.


Stay Inspired!




Mary Pat Knight, CEO of Leaders Inspired, is a Transformation Strategist, Speaker, Facilitator, and Coach committed to leadership and emotional intelligence in the workplace. She is known for cutting through corporate drama to create laser focus for powerful business and personal results for her clients. 

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