Now is the Time to Align Expectations

Everyone has expectations. Whether explicit or implied, there are certain things we assume will or should happen. As employees we expect a safe workspace; we want to have fun (December’s articles); and we expect fair remuneration for our efforts. As employers, we expect effort and, more importantly, we expect it to lead to productive outcomes that align with our goals.

Far too often there is a wide gap between the expectations of employees and those of the organization’s leadership. Two key reasons for these gaps are a) lack of a plan and b) lack of clarity about the plan, including measurement, responsibilities, and timelines.

As the New Year begins it’s a great time to ensure that our own organizations have a plan in place; one developed through broad-based interaction with stakeholders, where we’ve challenged ourselves about what we want to accomplish and whether it’s achievable.

Next, we need to consider how well that plan is articulated to the people expected to enact it. Here’s a way to determine this:

  • At a reasonable point after the organization’s objectives have been disseminated ask a sample group of employees about this year’s organizational goals.
  • Collect the data; don’t challenge it.
  • Examine the answers of the respondents, comparing them to each other and the actual goals that you have communicated.

Are the answers consistent across respondents and are they aligned to the goals of the organization? If yes, well done, perhaps there’s only a little course correcting to do. But if there are large variances, it’s akin to multiple captains taking shifts steering our ship, each one setting a slightly different course, and the next one correcting course based on their understanding of what is right. We might still reach our destination, but the net impact is wasted time, money, and energy.

Here is a quick checklist of activities to ensure expectations are set, and clear to all concerned:

  • Ensure the plan has a manageable number of goals achievable in a reasonable time frame.
  • Develop and implement a communication strategy to share the goals with everyone involved. It is a common mistake to share goals once and then assume everyone has them ‘locked and loaded.’ Paced, spaced repetition and the use of different modalities or communication styles will create a more sustained impact.
  • Have a key performance indicator (KPI) scoreboard that is highly visible throughout the organization and updated regularly.
  • Conduct regular one-on-ones with employees: these need to be two-way exchanges and cover more than task lists.

It is essential that we ensure our employees understand the expectations of the organization and how they can contribute to achieving those expectations. It is also important to give employees an opportunity to communicate what their expectations are of the organization and its leadership. These are important elements of actually meeting mutually agreed upon expectations. The earlier you discover any gaps, the easier it is to make course corrections. Later may be too late!

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January 1, 2019

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