I got an email from a CEO recently that said:
I have been dealing with issues in the team this week, and it dawned on me that there doesn’t seem to be a single person on our team who meets expectations. I’m not sure if anyone in our organization has ever met expectations! I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t been a source of frustration and disappointment over ten years.
I was grateful that this CEO was self-aware enough to realize that she was part of the problem, but she still had no idea what to change!
The problem with expectations
Expectations are clear as can be, in our heads, but when they get to our employee’s heads, they are often less clear. When we broadcast our “expectations,” there’s a power difference between our team and us. They may not feel like they can ask questions or clarify things that aren’t understood. Further, when questions do arise down the line, we have communicated that we don’t want feedback, and so folks continue along with their uncertainty.
Instead of broadcasting our expectations, start a discussion about what outcomes are required. Start with talking out the result you’re looking for, then solicit feedback from the team about achieving that outcome. Often, that conversation involves modifying the way I’m looking at the problem and the solution!
How much, how long?
An explicit agreement also involves boundaries. How much time and what resources are available to reach this outcome? How doable is that considering all the other commitments you have? Being clear about the priority you place on this effort helps the team to align it against the rest of the work on their plate.
Expectations involve primarily one-way communication, but agreements involve back and forth and compromise on both sides to land on common ground.
Can you think about areas where you have expectations of your team? How would you turn those expectations into agreements?