The Magic of Expectations
Have you ever walked into a situation where you assume that someone already knows what is expected of them?
Whether it’s in a personal or professional situation, chances are that they actually don’t — not completely, anyway. They may even be hoping you will be the one to level-set expectations with them.
I have gone into new leadership roles and assumed that everyone on the team knew what the mission was, what the KPIs were, and the purpose of what we were doing.
It turns out that everyone on the team usually has a different answer to those questions!
Often times, people feel like there is never an ideal time to ask clarifying questions about their job, so they just go along with whatever they have been doing in the past.
Or other times, they wait until performance reviews to clarify things, in which case it is too late. Similarly, their leader may think that the expectations are obvious, so they don’t explicitly communicate any.
All of this uncertainty doesn’t make anything better.
If you don’t make sure you’re all on the same page, it can become a waste of time and resources, not to mention a cause of frustration and stress for everybody involved.
So what is the best way to have “the expectation discussion?”
This should be a productive, fun discussion to have. Conversations about expectations should be diplomatic and encouraging, but also crystal clear, so that there isn’t any confusion between parties.
Some of the biggest stress and drama can come from the tiniest holes and overlaps in expectations.
One way to kick this off is to get a baseline of what your team member believes what their expectations are for their role. If they’re a better writer than verbal communicator, they can even write it down and you can review it together.
This is a great time for the person to expose potential challenges they are having in their role as well, either by their omission of something important, or by unearthing a problem during your conversations.
Once it comes time to set expectations, getting them down in writing is the best way, so that you can all refer to the same place anytime you need a reminder.
I’ve found that the phrase “the expectations are…” can be great, or if you have already built up trust with the team, you can phrase it as “my expectations are…”
At many companies, things change extremely fast and these expectations may change with them. Make sure to continue to iterate and adapt them as your team grows and changes.
A list of expectations for your team is also a fantastic tool for new hires to have, as it doesn’t leave any open questions about what is required for them to succeed.
Take a step back and ask yourself: do you know the expectations for your own role? If you lead a team, have you have ever communicated what’s expected to them?
It’s never too late to have these discussions. Hopefully, you will find the magic of expectation setting: more clarity, alignment, and purpose for all.