People like to measure themselves. They like to compare themselves to other people, external benchmarks, or internal perspectives. This gives them a sense of place and rank.
Without these, individuals often feel listless and focusless. They drift, not sure what to do or what pursue.
There is a small percentage of the population that can self-set expectations for themselves, and create their own inner narratives. However, the majority prefer these to be displayed and created through culture and communities. For this reason, setting expectations for roles, jobs, and employees is critical.
When I was younger, I assumed all not only could, but preferred to self-set their own agenda, goals, projects, and timelines. I assumed that they would be aggressive in achieving or exceeding these self-set goals, independent of company set guidelines. For this reason, I did away with job duties, descriptions, expectations, key metrics, or any other limiting or focusing factor.
What I found surprised me.
I was constantly frustrated. Coworkers never started or completed projects. They did not step up for extra work like improvements. Usually, within 1-2 years they even stopped some of the responsibilities that were key to the role they were supposed to be fulfilling within the organization.
Through many experiments and conversations, I discovered something. Though many will say they “self-motivated” or “self-directed”, they, in reality, preferred to be given expectations, and then focus and self-manage the way in which they delivered on those expectations.
Employees who were given a few directives, key responsibilities, and a couple of metrics to measure how good they were doing at fulfilling those directives reported being much happier and fulfilled in their job within a few short months.
Creating job roles and responsibilities has since been something I have been working on across a few different organizations. Creating roles that are wide enough for creativity and problem solving, but narrow enough to focus an individual’s energies and direct their purpose.