One Thing to Eliminate From Every Job Description

I asked a group of managers (coming from a variety of industries and positions) “What do you think most bosses want from their employees?” They reached quick consensus: responsiveness, self-sufficiency, creativity, and candor topped the list (with a beautiful argument about the pros and cons of compliance).

I then asked, “How do you know what YOUR manager wants?” The responses were more varied and cryptic.

“You’ve got to watch for clues.”

“You learn by trial and error.”

“You’ve got to watch their body language.”

“You learn what not to do when others screw up.”

“Or worse, I learn when I screw up.”

And then the obvious question. “How do you think your team learns what you expect?” Crickets. Apparently mind-reading is a common, yet invisible requirement in many job descriptions.

How much time would we save if we were more explicit about what we want and need?

How much energy could be diverted to actually working on the work, rather than guessing what’s on one another’s minds?

  • “A response to my questions within  12 hours is vital. Let me explain why. We had this client _________.”
  • “I travel a lot so I’m going to count on you to make some important decisions when I’m in the air. Let me explain my process of evaluating a good decision.”
  • “There are some areas where I expect 100% compliance. All security standards must be followed at all times and we never jeopardize a customer’s private information.” In other areas I’m all for creativity and experimentation. I expect you to push back when something feels stupid. Let me tell you about a time _______.”

You know what you want and need. Your employees know what they need in order to meet your expectations. Imagine the possibilities with just a little more communication?

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Posted in Communication, Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. I love the specificity of your examples. The storytelling aspect of them is very compelling and would surely get genuine attention, and retention, by the listener.

    I usually clarify that I’m not always great at providing “enough” work for others to do and have to be reminded to focus on this at times. I like to allow employees/trainees to shadow me to learn all the little things in my techniques that I just don’t think to share otherwise. That often also gives me a chance to throw things their way that I realize are time consuming and I am either not good at or not an effective use of my skill sets.

    • James, that’s awesome. I think shadowing is a great way to learn and grow. I’m a big fan.

  2. Very well written and I love your examples. I did this with my intern in our weekly one on ones and she loved it … it meant she could take on more responsibility. She knew exactly what was expected and I wasn’t having to check everything the whole time.

    It makes things easier for everyone I think.

  3. Great list here, Karin!

    When I’m working with team members about my expectations, I always have them repeat back to me what I said. Often, what I think is obvious or easy, the other person stumbles on when trying to repeat back to me what they should do.

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