You can bet that if you do not set and manage expectations, drama will invite itself in for an extended visit. When people do not know what is expected, they will create their own expectations – and they most likely will not align across the organization. Disagreements and controversy ensue, causing chaos and distraction from driving positive results. While setting and managing expectations may seem time consuming, the cost – in time, effort, and drama – of not doing so far exceeds that of being responsible and clearly letting people know what you expect of them.
Before you, as a leader, can hold people accountable for outcomes, you have to let them know what success looks like and what you expect to see as a result of their efforts. If everyone knows what is expected, the focus is on driving for results and monitoring against set standards. The benefit of setting and managing expectations is twofold:
- Clear, concise expectations drive actions and decisions.
- Explicit expectations are a primary driver of success.
If you fail to create an environment where expectations are well understood and respected by your people, you are highly unlikely to develop a high-performing organization… or deliver strong business results.
Expectations are like the rules in the board game Sorry! When everyone knows the “rules” or “expectations”, some may try and cheat (like my husband, who can’t stand to lose), but the other players will hold the cheater accountable. When no one knows the rules, it is impossible to be accountable, much less hold anyone else accountable to anything. Organizations are no different – if you want your players to know how to play to win and hold others accountable, you are responsible for setting and managing expectations.
When setting expectations, consider these four principles:
Expectations should focus on outcomes, not activities. Leaders often make the mistake of attempting to direct the process that will be used, rather than focusing on the desired outcome. As a leader, you should be responsible for identifying the goal, while the employee (or the team) is then responsible for developing how to meet or exceed expectations.
Relevance helps define the “why” of what is expected. If employees have complete understanding of the importance of what they are asked to deliver, they will be more committed to the result because they see how it fits into the big picture, as well as how their efforts impact the company.
Simplicity creates a sense of grounding for both individuals and teams. If you identify what is expected in simple, straightforward terms, there is a clear understanding of exactly what is expected.
After setting expectations, you must maintain a consistent approach to managing expectations that can be applied in most situations. This facilitates a sense of unity and equality, and will bolster morale across the organization.
Now, let’s consider three important components to managing expectations:
1. Setting Expectations
Set concise, clear and realistic expectations so people know what to expect and feel they can achieve success. A leader’s responsibility is to set employees up for success by engaging them in the process. People tend to cooperate much better when they understand and are committed to how you manage and what you really expect of them.
2. Monitoring Expectations
The truth is, you can’t manage expectations unless you monitor them. In order to successfully monitor, you need to engage both individuals and the team. More importantly, you need to hear and understand what you are being told and how it affects your organization. Monitoring enables you to assess progress and assist if unexpected roadblocks emerge. Explicit monitoring (not micromanaging) indicates that goals are important to you as a leader and that you are vested in achieving results alongside your people.
3. Influencing Expectations
Once you have clearly and concisely defined expectations and engaged your people, it’s time to flex your influencing muscles to ensure every last person on your team is bought into individual, team, and organizational expectations.
Expectations are difficult to control and impossible to turn off. Everybody has them and if you, as a leader, are not explicit in communicating your expectations there is a big chance you may not deliver the results you were hoping for. Expectations drive performance and establish benchmarks for success. Your organization is relying on your expertise, and it’s up to you to help them understand what you need to create great outcomes. Managing expectations gives you the power to control the environment (to the extent that is possible) and guide people down the path toward delivering exceptional results.
Have you set clear and concise expectations for your organization?
Please engage the discussion and let us know how you manage expectations in your organization. Feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.