Saturday, December 16, 2017

4 Steps to making your expectations clear

March 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured Posts, Work

Making decisions4 Steps to making your expectations clear: I recently spent 10 days in warm, sunny Jamaica. Except that on the last 2 days, a cold front moved in. And I was cold. What was the temperature? About 21°C! On arriving in Toronto to -2°C temperatures, replete with snow and ice, I realized that I didn’t feel that cold. How could it be, I mused, that in 21°C weather I felt cold and in -2°C I didn’t? It boils down to (or perhaps in this case, it freezes to) my expectations. In Jamaica, I expected warm weather and in the Toronto in March I expect it to be cold. I was prepared mentally and physically for the cold Toronto weather. I was not prepared for it to be “cold” in Jamaica! When my expectations were not met and the hot Jamaican weather turned slightly cooler, I literally started to shiver. I even posted rather cheekily on my Facebook page: “Can’t take this cold in Kingston. Heading back to my warm, toasty home in Toronto”. Over this same period, I was apprised of two instances of conflict between boss/employee. On delving deeper into the issues, I discovered that the root cause was unstated expectations. In both cases, the boss had failed to make the expectations clear to the team member. As a result, the team member performed as best as he/she thought. In one case, the result was severe boss/team member conflict and total breakdown of the relationship. In the other, confusion about performance, lack of trust and a decision by the team member to start jobhunting! Hearing these cases, and musing about my weather experience, I realize there’s a bigger lesson here for leaders: expectations help to define how the people you lead behave. A big mistake that leaders make is to not make their expectations very, very clear. When those unstated expectations are not met, the leader is disappointed and the team member confused. I find this quite often in my coaching practice. My coachee reports a problem with his team leader and on investigating further, it turns out that the coachee was not told EXPLICITLY what the leader’s expectations were and so could not meet them. Sometimes, the leader himself is not clear on what he expects and may allude vaguely to it. The “law” chips in – vague expectations = vague results! And we are surprised when this happens? “I don’t know what is wrong with so-and-so” …. Well, did you take the time to tell so-and-so what you consider to be right? In the quest for harmony in the workplace here are 4 steps on how to make expectations very clear and agreed:

  1. Be clear what your expectations are. Think about the expectations in measurable terms e.g. “30% increase in revenue this year” or “Answer the phone within 3 rings”
  2. Meet with your team member and discuss your expectations. This is a discussion not an order. Explain why the expectations are important and how you arrived at them
  3. Help your team member determine how he/she will meet these expectations
  4. Set up a mechanism for regular feedback – again, a discussion, not a one-way data dump by you.

Joy in -2°C weather is possible when that is what you expect and are prepared for. Joy at work is possible. Get clear on your expectations so that your team members can be prepared and act accordingly. And by the way, did you notice that this 4-step process can apply to ANY relationship? How about your children? Your spouse?


5 Responses to “4 Steps to making your expectations clear”
  1. Carol says:

    I was just about to say, these principles could work with any relationship, when I read further that you said just that. All relationship problems can be traced back to unfulfilled expectations, can’t they. Clear, open communication can’t be beat. Luv.

  2. Marguerite Orane says:


    Clear, open communication upfront – not when things start crashing down. Although if it hasn’t been done early, then you just have to do it ASAP. Sometimes the hardest part is getting clear on our own expectations.



  3. Barbara says:

    Thanks for sharing your newsletter and blog Marguerite. It is refreshing and useful. Your points about expectations are spot on and a timely reminder for for me. I find that in trying to manage a whole heap of administrative tasks for a team, it is easy to miss on expressing what my concept of a completed task is. There is the expectation that the team member will know “automatically”.

    I agree that sometimes I’m really not sure what I expect, but I hope that the team member will add their input and wisdom to come up with a desirable outcome. Of course that requires me to appreciate the outcome. That is often the point at which I become clear on what it is I really wanted. Then I have to work with the team member to clarify the expectation and tweak the outcome.

    I’m going to use your steps right now!


  4. Marguerite Orane says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Barbara. You are so right on all counts! In the final analysis, the work we must first (and continually) do when building the team is on ourselves!




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