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When Expectations Are a Good Thing

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The word “expectations” can be helpful or hurtful. In personal relationships, they are a recipe for disaster. But in professional environments, expectations have an enormous impact. What’s the difference?

Let’s Talk Business

If you picked up your phone right now & asked one of your employees “Do you know what is expected of you?” what answer would you get? If you have even the slightest doubt what they would answer, stay tuned. As a leader, you’re busy and assume that everyone is doing his/her job. One of your most common frustrations probably is expectations not being met. To perform well, your employees need to know what is expected of them. In this busy world, how do you make conversations about expectations a part of your leadership?

Boss and Employee

© Flickr user Grant Wickes

As a manager, you need to have these conversations about expectations with your employees. Here are four questions to guide your conversations:

  • What do you (the leader) expect? Before you talk to your team members, you must be clear on this. A good leader reflects on themselves first, and then on others when assessing expectations. Ensure there is a clear definition of what success looks like for an employee in that position. Then, and only then, can you communicate clearly to your employee what the requirements are.
  • What does your employee think you expect? Ask him or her to tell you what success looks like. You want to make sure that they heard you and they really understands what you said. Listen carefully to ensure the two of you are talking about the same expectations.
  • How does your employee think they are doing? Ask this question before giving your feedback. The answer will give you great information about your employee’s perspective & understanding of the job. This is also the time for employees to talk about their work and to tell about their successes and struggles.
  • How is your employee really doing? Leader, this is where you get to talk and provide feedback on the job your employee is doing. Make sure you prepare before this conversation by asking yourself: What progress can the employee celebrate? And how is the best way to give feedback to this employee?

When you make the subject of expectations a regular part of your conversations with your employees, everyone will be less frustrated. This will ultimately lead to higher performance.

Let’s Talk Personal

These days, people tend to blend their business lives with their personal lives. We are friends with our colleagues, we start companies with our buddies, and we often connect with everyone on a social and professional level.

At work, expectations are helpful because the relationship is one of employment. At it’s core, this is transactional. You do work and the company responds with compensation and other opportunities. Expectations define the scope and pace of work, as well the details of how you are paid.

But outside of the office, relationships are characterized by shared values and experiences. In these cases, expectations are premeditated resentments. If you assume a friend will call you just because it is your birthday, you’re going be frustrated or disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

This expectation is not reasonable because there is no transaction or agreement. Your friend did not make a promise. You merely want them to behave in a way you have not discussed.

Business is Personal, Sometimes

Navigating the gap between “I’m paying you, so this is the requirement” and “We’re friends, whatever you need to do is fine” can be challenging. But knowing the role of expectations can help in all your relationships.

  • At work: set expectations and talk about them.
  • Everywhere else: do the same if you need to, but don’t assume that people will behave in a way you haven’t discussed.

Best of luck!

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Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey, CEO and founder of Making Performance Matter, collaborates with organizations to convert their strategy into action. She takes global organizations to the next level by developing customized "people strategies" that bring their business strategy to life and enabling them to optimally execute it.
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