What did you expect?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Joseph Schaefer
  • 39th Comptroller Squadron commander
Those of us working in the customer service arena understand what it means to manage the customer's expectations. We set standards for performance and publish those standards for our customers to see. We then develop metrics to measure our performance and share this information with our customers through easy-to-understand graphics. Measured performance gives customers a sense of security as they trust us with their transactions. We do this as an attempt to set our customers' expectations at a realistic level and then show them how we are taking care of their transactions on a consistent basis through measurement.

Odds are, the day-to-day interaction with our customers is not through the commander, first sergeant, SNCO or NCO; it is through the Airmen. Because they are on the front lines, it is imperative we take the time to lead our Airmen and meet their expectations of us as supervisors, leaders and managers. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, has stated, "... You can't expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don't exceed the employees' expectations of management."

Think about this for a second.

Is your focus only on managing the mission, customers and metrics in your area of expertise or do you take the time to set the expectations for your people and understand what your people expect from you? As we are all trained in various schoolhouses, it is our responsibility to layout our expectations upfront for our people; but do you stop there or do you adjust those expectations as time and situations dictate? When laying out those expectations do you ask your personnel to layout what they expect from you or do you think it is simply understood? You can't meet or exceed the expectations of your personnel if you never ask the question to understand what those expectations truly are. A friend and mentor of mine early in my career scheduled my initial feedback to layout his expectations of me, but instead of having me walk in empty handed, he handed me a tailored feedback sheet and asked me to be ready to tell him what I expected and needed from him as my boss.

I am consistently amazed at the professionalism of today's Airmen as they deal with a constantly changing and challenging environment. The next time you are sitting in a quality assurance meeting realizing your organization is not meeting or exceeding the established standards, take the time to ask if you have laid out your expectations and if you have asked them to tell you how to best support them. If the answer is no, well what did you expect?