How To Set Clear Expectations

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

You invested time and money recruiting a new staff member and now it’s coming up to the end of the probationary period. You are feeling frustrated because they are not performing as you want them to and you feel let down.

You really want this to work and the thought of spending many more months trying to re-recruit leaves you cold. The good news is that it’s possible to turn the situation around quickly once you get clear on how your own way of managing people may be contributing to the problem.

Too often managers fail to communicate the goals and requirements of the team but instead leave them unsure what to do and how to do it.  It’s remarkable just how much time and money an organisation can waste because a manager fails to set clear expectations for the people they employ. There appears to be a mistaken belief that an employee should know – after all they are intelligent.

But in my experience not setting clear expectations results in anxiety, hesitation, lack of performance and miscommunications.

Properly setting expectations for team members will set standards for excellence and results. Here are a few simple tips on how to do this:

1) Start with a vision of how you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed.

2) Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step to follow. Your goal is to guide, not to control. Letting individuals find their own route encourages them to use their strengths to their fullest potential.

3) Tie the mission of the project to each team member’s tasks (and organisational goals where possible). People want to know that their role, whether large or small, makes a difference.

4) Give feedback – and often! In the absence of timely feedback people invent all sorts of stuff and much of this impacts negatively on performance and mental health. Feedback along the way sound more like coaching, not like punishment. You can tell a person a couple of things you like about what they are doing and, if appropriate, one thing you would like to see more or less of.

For example “Your did a great job of presenting the findings to the board last week and fielding the subsequent questions. Going forward I’d like to see you doing more of this with our external stakeholders….”

5) Give positive reinforcement (don’t mix negative and positive). Mention the thing you like and you’ll get more of it. Be specific and prompt. Check out the HBR article on giving praise in culturally diverse organisations.

6) Ensure people are clear about where their accountability lies for a project. Where are the boundaries? When do they have the authority to make decisions? And when do they need to seek another persons input before moving forward?

It’s not rocket science and yet many people forget these simple things. So if you want some help examining where your own behaviour may be contributing to someone else’s poor performance and lack of productivity then get in contact and book a clarity session and we will work together to get things back on track.

Over to you…

What tips and advice do you have for others about setting expectations? Leave a comment below.