An expectation is a belief that something will happen in the future. There are two key aspects to your expectations as a leader:
- Do you believe strongly that the expectation will be met?
- Were you clear in describing the expectation to others and in obtaining their commitment?
Baseball great Pete Rose was asked how many at-bats he needed to make the 78 hits required to beat Ty Cobb’s record: Rose replied, “78.” The reporter retorted “Ah, come on Pete, you don’t expect to get 78 hits in 78 at-bats do you?” Rose responded that indeed he did.
His philosophy was that every time he stepped up to the plate he expected to hit the ball. He felt strongly that if he didn’t expect to make a hit, he had no business being in the batter’s box. How many of us live our lives with that kind of a strong positive expectancy?
When we display a lack of positive expectancy as leaders, it erodes the confidence and enthusiasm of others.
Three examples of behaviours that work against achieving our expectations:
We may fail to delegate because we believe we can do it better ourselves, or we don’t want to burden others. If you use either excuse make sure it’s true. Before taking on someone else’s work, consider how that individual will ever learn if you continue to do the work for them. If you are concerned about someone’s workload, ask them what else they are working on? If you have concerns assist them to determine how they can correct any errors or complete a previously committed-to assignment.
Continually checking on progress may suggest you do not trust that someone will actually meet his or her commitments. Instead:
- Agree upfront how people will keep you informed of progress.
- Ensure that your expectations are clearly understood before they begin.
- Be open-minded and accept that there are sometimes multiple ways to achieve the same result.
Ineffective handling of performance gaps
When a performance gap has been identified it is important to ensure that the individual knows that you believe they can close the gap. This means:
- Providing the right guidance and support.
- Agreeing upon the expected action steps.
- Providing positive reinforcement as the changes happen.
Setting Clear Expectations
Be specific about the desired outcome: it saves time and reduces the need to correct issues at the end.
- Get to know your team members. Discover the most effective way to communicate expectations to each one. Do they grasp certain concepts quickly; are they more analytical, wanting detailed information upfront; or do they need to see the big picture first before getting the details?
- Spend time planning the communication.
- Mutually agree on the outcome and timelines.
- Always debrief after a key assignment, to discuss what went well and what could have been enhanced. These learnings build capacity and benefit the next assignment.
Setting expectations that are clear and positive is a key part of communication and essential to your success in business.