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.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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