Something All Great Managers Know.... and it’s not what you think.

Have you ever wondered why the best managers seem to make things look so easy? Many times, these great managers are accused of having an easier road, being privileged with greater resources, or just being lucky with finding better employees. Nothing could be further from the truth! The hard reality is that those are the convenient excuses of poor and mediocre managers.


The truth is that it took an immense amount of work by those great managers to get their team to become such a high functioning unit. They just think and do things differently than other managers. They place a tremendous amount of effort on things like setting expectations, planning, training, and building relationships at the beginning of their project, in order to reap the benefits in the long-term. This is the exact opposite of what mediocre managers do. Mediocre managers are reactive instead of proactive. They do things like sending a new employee out to the sales floor on day one rather than training them well first and then sending them out to do their job. Not taking time on things like training new hires may seem like a short-term win, but the issues and problems it creates in the long term cannot be overstated.

When I coach individual managers, I always ask them whether they set expectations with new hires when they first join their team. I clarify with them that I am not referring to the company mandated new hire orientation program or mandatory compliance training that most employers require during the initial few days of employment. The answer is usually “No” followed by something like “I don’t have time for that.”


Great managers never forget what it is like being the “Newby”. This is the essence of the television show Undercover Boss. It’s usually when these disguised CEOs pose as a new hire that they realize the level of disfunction in their organization. They wind up changing everything once they realize why they’re losing good people.

What great managers know is that the amount of time you spend setting expectations for a “Newby” or new hire as well as training them the correct way up front, pays dividends many times over for the rest of their employment. When I say setting expectations, I mean sitting down with them for a half hour to an hour and going over things like:

· This is what a clean work area looks like.

· This is what I expect this area to look like when I ask you to organize it.

· This is how I do the schedule.

· Confirm your availability because you were hired based on your availability and you will be held accountable for that availability.

· This is how I handle call-offs and absenteeism.

· What type of skills/experience do you already possess?

· This is how I like to communicate. This is when we will meet going forward.

· This is your mentor who will be available to you from this point forward.

Imagine having this type of conversation with a new hire. Imagine all the issues, possible mistakes and confusion you could avoid by discussing such things and then providing them a resource, like a mentor, for any ongoing issues that could arise.

Now imagine not setting expectations early on. Imagine sending an employee directly to work with limited information. Imagine the frustration they will go through trying to figure out the most basic aspects of their job. Now imagine all the time and effort involved in cleaning up the potential messes these employees could create because they were not properly trained. Now tell me “I don’t have time to do that.” I always argue, what takes more time?

Another aspect of this topic to consider is employee turnover. I once heard a statistic that a majority of employees make up their minds whether they will stay or leave an organization within the first 72 hours. The study does not say they leave at 72 hours, just that they made up their minds and are now back on Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.… looking for their next job. Now, I’m not sure whether I agree with this statistic or even understand how they came up with it. Regardless, the 15,000+ workshop participants I have mentioned this statistic to agree with it. This statistic dovetails perfectly with setting expectations early and certainly could explain why turnover rates have spiked in certain organizations and/or departments that do not believe in putting the work in up front in order to reap the benefits down the road.

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