When setting your expectations and feedback approach for direct reports, rely less on how you see them — and more on how they see themselves.
Maybe you’ve never seen a manager who doesn’t have a college degree or who wears jeans every day — so, without realizing it, you don’t see your direct reports with those attributes as “management material.” Or maybe you presume an older, more experienced direct report is set in her ways and less open to feedback.
That’s how you see them, but how do they see themselves? If you let your unchecked assumptions guide your approach to setting expectations and giving feedback, you risk alienating, misjudging, or demoralizing them in ways that harm their performance and trust in you.
Instead, ask each of your direct reports in their 1-on-1s:
“What expectations do you have for yourself when it comes to X?”
Maybe you tend to avoid giving a direct report who’s learning your language any redirecting feedback on his presentations or emails for fear of offending him or coming across as prejudiced. But actually, he wants to be held to exactly the same standard as native speakers and feels anything less is patronizing. Then again, maybe he’s grateful that you’re cutting him some slack when it comes to his communication abilities. You won’t know until you ask.
“People like to receive feedback in different ways — what style do you tend to prefer?” Some people love redirecting feedback that’s to-the-point, while others like it laced with motivational catchphrases. And some would shrivel if you took either of those approaches.
While you’re at it, reflect on your expectations of yourself and your own feedback preferences. You might discover something about yourself worth communicating to your manager — he or she might be as appreciative to hear it. Just like you are when your direct reports are honest with you.