Talk about the impossible task: Keep your 10-week old puppy calm for six weeks until she is old enough to have surgery on a torn ACL. It is not going to happen.

The instructions from the vet made me think about other equally ludicrous goals that we give employees: pick up the work of the person who left and do your job, too; make monumental changes without revising any policies; serve more customers and serve them well, but without any additional resources, etc.

Why do we add to the frustration by expecting the unrealistic?

Part of our role as a supervisor is to help set priorities. It would serve a far greater purpose if lofty ambitions were broken down into specifics and given rankings: “Be sure the puppy doesn’t climb stairs” might actually occur. “Please do the reporting Chris used to do before you do the work for Committee X.” “Prepare a list of key policies that would be impacted by the change and your recommendations to alter them if needed.” “Let me know how we can reduce barriers and make customer service our first priority.”

Help your staff achieve results by keeping your expectations grounded and prioritized. You are far more likely to see progress in a narrowly defined area than with a broad wish list. Specificity encourages success.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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