Failure to set clear expectations is one of the most common mistakes that I see business leaders make. They often assume that they’ve communicated clearly when they really haven’t. These 10 steps will help you clarify and communicate your expectations:
1. List your desired results.
Do: Put your desired outcomes in writing. The process forces you to be clear. Rewrite them as many times as necessary until all ambiguity is gone. This will save you much aggravation later.
Don’t: Fool yourself by believing that you “have it all in your head” and skip this step.
2. Learn to manage your own discomfort.
Do: Relax when you feel uncomfortable emotions while remaining engaged in a difficult discussion. This is one of the most important skills that you can master.
Don’t: Avoid uncomfortable situations less you send a message that the status quo is acceptable, and you will still feel bad (because you avoided the situation).
3. Communicate the big picture.
Do: Start with the “why” behind your initiative. Share your vision of the end result and intentionally create an open dialogue. You may need to explain your position several times, in different ways, for everyone to understand. Be patient!
Don’t: Assume that others know what you mean or issue a general order such as “This is a priority.” Regardless of how talented your team is, they can’t read your mind.
4. You set the “what;” they make the “how.”
Do: Ask your executive team to create the plan (the “how”) in a SMART format once they understand the desired outcomes (the “what”). Your goal is to guide, not to micromanage.
Don’t: Give them a detailed plan. Thinking through the “how” develops their skills.
5. Establish mileposts.
Do: Establish regular check-in dates and develop metrics for how progress is measured.
Don’t: Wait until the deadline approaches and assume that everything is fine. It’s your responsibility.
6. Give and receive feedback.
Do: Have the courage to give and receive feedback frequently, both positive and corrective.
Don’t: Say nothing. Your team wants clarity, and they need to know if they are on track.
7. Adjust your plan, if necessary.
Do: Adjust deadlines when necessary. This demonstrates your flexibility and understanding.
Don’t: Stick to impossible deadlines. It demotivates, and establishes you as a dictator. Also, keep your expectations consistent – don’t alter them.
8. Make setting clear expectations part of your culture.
Do: Be a role model for how to set clear expectations to which others willingly commit. Expect your executive team to do the same.
Don’t: Set expectations only when someone is under-performing.
9. Align expectations.
Do: Meet monthly with each of your executive team members to ensure that your expectations and theirs are aligned.
Don’t: Assume that one conversation about expectations is sufficient for long-term understanding and performance.
10. Celebrate successes.
Do: Publicly celebrate when projects meet or exceed expectations. Not only is this fun, but it also reinforces the type of behavior that you want.
Don’t: Just move on to the next “big thing.”
Clearly articulated expectations motivate employees, create strong relationships and, most importantly, are vital to your success.