Great leaders have great expectations. They expect excellence and hold people accountable. Unarticulated expectations frustrate … you … your boss, your team, your children, your lover.
“But I assumed you would .,.”
“Why should I have to spell that out?”
Unarticulated assumptions are a sign of ineffective leadership.
One good conversation about expectations prevents 14 “Why didn’t you?” conversations.
My MBA students made it perfectly clear. They wanted a “rubric” on how they’d be graded. It’s an intensive practice to clearly define my expectations upfront and check for understanding. Sure the real world is “messier,” but there’s something to be said for clearly defining what you are looking for on both sides of the relationship equation.
Clear understanding improves performance.
The Simplest Way to Set Clear Expectations
1. Get clear on your own expectations.
If you’re not clear on what you want, I guarantee you won’t be able to communicate it. I had one VP who could never articulate just what he wanted in the presentations we were creating. He just knew it when he saw “it.” The lack of clear expectations always resulted in rounds and rounds of frustrating iterations wasting everyone’s time and weakening respect along the way.
2. Engage in conversation.
Be clear about what you want, but also listen carefully to concerns. It’s better to identify expectation disconnects as early in the game as possible.
3. Write them down.
In some circumstances, it’s useful to write down agreed-to expectations. This works one-on-one and with teams. The process of writing down expectations often leads to further clarity and serves as an objective reminder as expectation violations arise (P.S. if you want some musical inspiration see my cousin’s awesome folk band singing Write It All Down.)
4. Check in.
From time to time it’s useful to check in. You can easily draw a 4-quadrant box to guide the conversation (click graphic below). You can do this as a one-on-one or a team exercise.
Each person completes the matrix, jotting down areas where their expectations are being met and where they are not.
Discuss areas of agreement and areas of concern
- What do you expect that you receive, or don’t expect and don’t receive? Start with appreciating that.
- What do you receive that you don’t expect, or expect that you don’t receive? Recognize the good or the issue here and discuss.
Identify specific actions that would enable you to work more effectively together.
This exercise works well in interpersonal discussions, or also works well to talk about team dynamics.