By Leslie Boomer
You know that feeling of disappointment - even frustration - when people don’t meet your expectations? For me, those feelings usually accompany a deep sigh, pursed lips and wagging of the head as I mutter, “What is with people? Why can’t they get it right?” Then I realize that most often if I’m feeling this way, I haven’t clearly communicated specifically what I was hoping for or what I wanted from others. When I pause to ponder it, I know I’ve had the (unreasonable) expectation that people will just know how and what to do without me telling them what I want. Then when they don’t deliver, I’m not only frustrated that things weren’t done the way I wanted, but I’m also annoyed with myself for not taking the time to explain exactly what I was looking for in the first place.
Get on the same page
Misery loves company and I’ve had enough conversations with owners and managers at many levels to know my frustrations are shared by many. I’ve heard it said that when a competent person is hired, there’s an assumption that they’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it. Clearly there’s a problem with that assumption. Not everyone thinks the same way or has the same values when it comes to getting a job done. Even more, they may not have the same idea as to how much effort it should take to accomplish a particular task.
Then why do we assume that others will do things the way we want them done, without specifically stating what we expect? If a manager has particular expectations, he or she needs to outline them in advance so that workers have a fair opportunity to succeed by doing what’s expected.
Is this too obvious? It may seem so but it’s fairly commonplace for organizations to fail to outline appropriate expectations. As a result, accountabilities that should be set up based on those expectations are also lacking.
Lead with your strengths
The solution may be as simple as telling people what you want from them. From my perspective, it’s an integral part of what I call a “Formula for Strengths-Based Leadership Success.” With a formula like this, you have the potential to create an optimal environment for success that will more frequently meet your expectations.
It’s important to make sure your expectations apply to the role and the person in that role. Another must is establishing accountabilities, which helps keep a finger on the pulse of what’s being accomplished by each individual. If you have two people in a particular job role, you may need to adjust expectations and accountabilities to suit each person. Of course there are nonnegotiable aspects of almost every position, but certain aspects can be adjusted to get the very best that each person has to offer. This definitely takes thought, time and energy, but the results make it well worth the investment.
Finally, research has shown that how expectations are communicated is nearly as important as the expectations themselves. Random demands, angry commands or negative consequences don’t inspire people to perform at a high level. But if expectations are a normal part of preparing for work, and are set for each person in every role, compliance is higher and outcomes are much more positive.
Simply said, people perform better when they know what’s expected. They are more frequently able to meet and exceed expectations within a system of accountabilities that make sense for who they are as individuals and how they tend to perform. Not only does this produce higher-performing people, but you will find yourself much less frustrated and disappointed. That’s a return on investment I can live with!
Leslie Boomer is a Gallup-certified strengths coach and executive coach with Pro-Motion Consulting. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.