Actions to take: Follow the advice from past onboarding posts. In particular, spend time during weekly check-in meetings describing expectations for new employees who work under you. Read these scripts to help you develop those thoughts. Do not copy these scripts verbatim. Rather, use them as inspiration to develop scripts that are unique to your own management style and priorities.
Note: The following introduction will appear at the beginning of all four Onboarding Meeting Script posts.
Back in April of this year, I wrote two posts about the boss's job when it comes to onboarding a new employee (Onboarding New Employees - Part 1 and Onboarding New Employees - Part 2). These quickly became some of the most viewed pages on better-boss.com. That is no doubt in part due to the hour-long podcast episode I had with ELGL Director Kirsten Wyatt on the subject.
As part of a weekly onboarding check-in meeting, I encourage managers to spend time laying out big-picture expectations for their employees as explicitly as possible. Multiple times in my career, I have received positive, unsolicited feedback that I must keep doing this part of the onboarding check-in. I have also never met another manager who does it.
In the linked materials above, I talk about this step in some detail. I don't think people can picture it very well without having seen it themselves. This short series is an attempt to rectify that. These scripts are exactly what I use when I deliver expectations "speeches" to my new employees during our check-in meetings. Please keep a few things in mind:
- These are scripts. The nuance of tone, body language, eye contact, and minor improvisation depending on the employee's reactions are not conveyed here.
- These are intended as example, not as a finished product for the reader. They are written to describe my managerial priorities and expectations. To have real meaning, your scripts need to be your own. Take inspiration from these, but I encourage you not to copy them verbatim.
- These are written assuming that the new employee is a manager themselves. Most of the content stays the same (excepting script #4), but not all. Not only should you write scripts to match your management, you should tweak them to match the new employee's position.
Onboarding Script #1: Honesty, Respect, and Results
This is the most important stuff. We don’t talk about this stuff openly and directly because it tends to feel implied, but that doesn’t reduce its importance. We should probably talk about it more. No report or assignment I give you will ever be more important than what I’m about to say.
Honesty is the foundation of good work. We tell each other the truth. There is never a time where not telling me the truth is okay.
Based on everything I’ve heard about your work, I believe that you are honest, and I will continue to believe that until you prove me wrong. Being dishonest may work in the short term, but it is a short-term strategy. Eventually dishonesty is found out, or at least reasonably suspected, and when that happens, work suffers.
I will never use your honesty against you. If I ever ask you about something you’re not at liberty to share, remember that I’m only entitled to an honest answer if I am entitled to an answer. I will try not to ask you questions that put you in that position.
When I say “honesty” I do not only mean “avoidance of a lie.” There are plenty of times where someone can get away with technically telling the truth while omitting important information. That is not honesty. Honesty is telling the full truth with all relevant details to the best of your ability. Never make a statement that is intentionally misleading. If you ever know the truth and you are not saying it clearly, you are being less honest than I am asking you to be.
I am asking you to be honest even when it hurts to be honest. Even when it puts you in an uncomfortable position, or requires you to admit less-than-stellar information about yourself. I am asking you to be honest even when it requires you to admit less-than-stellar information about me. I am asking you to be honest even when we might get in trouble for it.
This holds for all of your work, not just the things you say. Truthful reporting is paramount to the success of the organization. Reporting work through rose-tinted glasses hides problems and shortcomings. It hinders your ability to improve, which hinders the organization's ability to improve. If there is information you would want if you were on the receiving end, then you cannot leave that information out and still claim that it is a full and complete report.
I expect you to be honest and show integrity all day, every day.
I expect you to treat others with respect. I expect you to be kind to all the people you interact with as a function of your employment here.
There is never a place for yelling, or threats, or using power with the goal of invoking fear. Speaking in anger to someone is not acceptable.
This is especially, most importantly, true for those you outrank. Power and kindness must go hand-in-hand. We will speak more on this in a future meeting, but using your authority, your power as “boss”, to get things done is rarely an effective way to get results. I expect you to be especially kind, to work especially hard at being polite, respectful, in some cases intentionally light-hearted with the people who report to you.
I expect you to be kind even when it makes things harder. There will be times when being direct and stating your unvarnished opinion will feel like you are simply being honest, when in fact, your “honesty” is coming from a place of frustration or even anger. Honesty comes first, but you cannot sacrifice respect to serve honesty.
There are times when it is faster to be a little rude, to be a bit of a bully with your opinion to get what you want. It may work in the moment, but it will make later work harder. You cannot get results without other people. Respect and kindness are part of having relationships with other people. Bullying, speaking in anger, or even being subtly coercive with your power as boss, these things degrade the relationship, which steals your future effectiveness.
There are times when we lapse. If that happens even a little bit, no matter how justified it may feel, it is important to recognize the fault in yourself. It is important to make amends through meaningful apologies. It is important to review your behavior to improve your abilities for the future.
Kindness can include directness. When talking about feedback, I often ask people “If you were doing something that your boss didn’t like, would you want to know about it?” It is not unkind to tell someone their results are not up to standard when that is true. Your job, our jobs, are to manage the effectiveness of the people below us. Just as you cannot hide behind honesty to avoid being kind, you cannot hide behind kindness to avoid honest communication. By paying attention to your tone and your phrasing, it is possible and expected of you to provide feedback while being respectful and kind.
Finally, results will not happen without other people’s help. Whether it is the people below you, your peers, or the people above you, respect is the only way to be successful. The further you go in your career the more you will need to rely on relationships to get things done. You can’t ignore other people, or dismiss their opinions, or even be too forceful about your own opinion. People will learn that they don’t want to work with you, and when that happens, you become ineffective. Being right is less important than you think—learning that has been a bit of a journey for me, but it’s true. Knowing the right thing to do is irrelevant if you can’t get it done, and you can’t get things done without other people.
I expect you to achieve results.
Through the use of honesty and respect, your job is to produce results. I will push you to continue improving. I will ask more of you as time goes on. Since you are a supervisor, I will ask more of you than one person can do. Remember that you get work done through other people. It is your job to determine what work should be done by you and what work should be done by the people below you.
I expect you to come in every day ready to do your best work. I expect you to take care of yourself, and of course your family comes first. I believe that is an important part of being an effective employee. Those who sacrifice their health and their personal relationships become martyrs for their company, and there is no evidence that they produce any better work than those who don’t.
I will ask for evidence of results. Let me be clear here, I am not interested in evidence that you are busy. Being busy and being effective are not the same thing. Do not be surprised when I ask you not only to do a thing, but to report on that thing. If you want to impress me, get in the habit of providing follow ups regardless of whether I ask. Again, however, this is not just about whether you did it, but what result or outcome came from it.
And that is the most important stuff. I know it’s a heavy topic to start out with. Do you have any thoughts or questions?