One of the most common frustrations of leaders is expectations not being met. Leaders are busy folks and as a result we assume a lot in the process of doing our jobs. One of the common assumptions and therefore a source of frustration is that our people know what we expect of them. If you left your desk or picked up the phone right now and asked one of your team members, “Do you know what is expected of you?” what answer would you get? If you have even the slightest doubt that they would answer those questions accurately, it’s time to upgrade the conversations you are having with those you lead.
4 Questions To Guide Your Conversations About Expectations
1. What Do You Expect? – This is where it all begins. Even before you can communicate to an employee or team members what you expect, you must be clear on what you expect from them. I can’t tell you how many times a leader has said to me, “My people know what I expect.” Really? Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. My first question to them is usually, “Do you know what you expect?” Clearly define in your own mind and on paper what you expect and then have a conversation with those you lead to tell them. Focus on exactly what you want from them and what their focus should be.
2. What Do They Think You Expect? – It takes one to tell and two to understand, so this question is critical to ensure that the expectations you have set are actually what they heard. Make sure to ask them what they heard and what they understood. This is your opportunity to intently listen and ensure alignment between what you expect and what they think you expect. This is a question to return to again in future conversations where you are giving feedback. Every feedback conversation should begin with the question, “What do you think was expected?” Many long and frustrating conversations can be avoided if you learn up front that they didn’t understand your expectations to begin with.
3. How Do They Think They Are Doing? – If expectations are aligned after the previous question, this is the very next question you should ask in a feedback conversation before giving any feedback. The answer to this question will give you loads of great information about the perspective of the person and what they need from their leader. You are also providing the person an opportunity to give account for the work they’ve been doing. They get to tell their story and everyone wants to give their side of the story. This gives the message that they have a stake in the work beyond just doing it and that you care about what they think.
4. How Are They Doing? – This is where you get to talk and you have a treasure trove of information to provide targeted, useful feedback on the job they did or are doing. When preparing for this conversation, ask yourself: How do they best receive feedback? What progress can we celebrate? What was the impact of their performance on others?
Make expectation conversation a regular part of your leadership. You’ll be less frustrated and your people will trust you more.