6 Keys to Establishing Meaningful Expectations

"Expecting the Unexpected Won't Live up to It's Expectations" - Anonymous

Throughout our personal and professional lives, we are constantly setting expectations. We may not always consciously set or clearly communicate our expectations, but they are always there. For example, if a good friend of your's is the manager at an electronics store, you might expect to receive a great deal or discount on your next big laptop purchase. You have done great favors for this friend in the past and there is no doubt that they will be able to knock 10-20% off the laptop purchase price. This particular expectation was set consciously; however, it wasn't clearly communicated. This lack of communication will lead to substantial disappointment if you learn you are paying full price for a laptop that is out your price range.

Similarly, setting expectations subconsciously can lead to similar disappointment. You might expect a family member to drop you off at the airport as you depart for vacation. Surely they remember when you dropped them off at the airport 6 months ago. Of course, they will be sure to return the favor. However, you had not thought the entire favor through before asking. You need to be at the airport at 5am and your family member would need to travel 30 minutes out of the way to pick you up before traveling to the airport. Your family member respectfully declines the opportunity to do you the favor. Can you blame them? You hadn't really thought the idea through before asking. Just as when we do not communicate our expectations, when we do not consciously set expectations, we are often disappointed.

The principles of setting expectations are just as important in our professional lives. Here are a few things to remember when analyzing and setting expectations:

1. Communicate Clear Expectations

The most common reason for people not meeting expectations is that they were never clearly communicated in the first place.

2. Provide a "Why" to the expectations that you set

People need a good reason to do almost everything. When people understand the reasoning behind the expectations that are set for them, they are more likely to feel valued and fulfilled while working to meet those expectations.

3. Provide people with the right tools

Adequate tools, training, and resources must be provided so that employees are properly prepared to meet expectations. When people are failing to meet expectations, ask yourself if you did everything you could to set them up for success.

4. Hold People Accountable

Just as it is important to clearly communicate our expectations, it is equally important to hold people accountable to meet those expectations. This not only sends a message to the person being held accountable, but others as well. In a professional environment, expectations hold less weight when they are continually left unfulfilled with no consequences.

5. Set expectations in collaboration with employees

Employees are more likely to work toward goals and expectations that they helped determine.

6. Establish measurable outcomes and associated timeframes

When measurable outcomes and timeframes are not established and communicated up front, there will always be a bit of wiggle room for people to rightfully not be held accountable. Goals and expectations should be CLEARLY DEFINED, MEANINGFUL, CHALLENGING, ACHIEVABLE, and TIME-LIMITED.

When is the last time you failed on purpose? People, inherently, do not enjoy failure. It is not something that we work toward. However, failure is often a result of not understanding the expectations of success. When we do not distinguish between good performance and poor performance, we fail to enforce positive morale. When people see the clear expectations that are set for them, they become motivated and engaged because they see how their performance will affect the overall organization.

For more information on expectations in the workplace and other valuable information, be sure to to pick up a copy of Carrots and Sticks Don't Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano.

Imagine a smile on your face,

Idea Ninja

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