Communicating Expectations

Effectively Communicating Expectations is not done enough in life. It is an easy trap to fall into thinking that others know what we expect.

It is normal to have expectations in life. Expectations are necessary to help us make sense of the world. They help us predict the actions and reactions of others and ourselves in a wide array of situations and circumstances.

This gives us the sense (sometimes illusion) that we have some control of the world around us. Expectations directly affect our behavior patterns around one another.

If we give a person a task at work that we expect to take two days, but it takes three days, we may be disappointed.

If we gave that same task to someone else whom we think it should take four days, but it only takes three, we would likely be pleased. Same task and time, different people, and different expectations.

If we set expectations and don’t communicate them clearly (and get buy-in) then meeting our needs is difficult. This leads to the question:


What is the best way to communicate expectations of others?

* First, be cautious and set realistic and achievable expectations.

* Second, work on communicating expectations. Expectations can be of behaviors or observable results.

* And third, get buy in if possible. Doing this helps ensure better communication, less frustration on both ends, greater opportunity for success and smother relationships.

Lets explore the case of two types of managers who have expectations of their people. Ask yourself:

* How are they different?
* Who is more effective?

The first manager consistently defines clear tasks and exit criteria and encourages input. He doesn’t demand overtime, as long as job assignments are executed according to an agreed upon schedule and within budget.

A second manager expects his people to work a minimum of ten hours overtime each week, doesn’t request input and doesn’t clearly outline tasks and exit criteria.

The first manager will probably be much more successful in accomplishing tasks, encouraging communication, reducing stress and creating an environment more enjoyable to work in. He was able to communicate expectations effectively.


Setting Expectations

When setting expectations openly discuss them with whomever you have a need from. By allowing a person to have an input to the time and resources needed helps ensure buy-in and probable success.

A person who is directed to do a task without being allowed input is rarely as diligent and enthusiastic in performance as someone who is consulted.

The individual who isn’t allowed input feels left out and disconnected, whereas the individual who is consulted feels like part of the process and connected.

When working on tasks some people try to define “how to” for others to accomplish the work. People have a wide array of creative and insightful methods of accomplishing things.

Who’s to say what is the correct way to execute a task as long as it meets the requirements, is completed on time and is within budget!

Besides tasks that have observable results, it is also common to have expectations on how people should act, react and handle a myriad of situations and circumstances.

It is clearly important for people to behave in an ethical, moral and respectful way, and to do their job efficiently. Being flexible of other behaviors is useful since people are all-different and work more productively when allowed to be themselves.

Effectively communicating expectations helps minimize many problems.

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