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March 9, 2023 5 Min Read

Set Clear Expectations

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Think of a time when you were about to start that new job or role and the expectations you had about the company, your boss or the position. Alternatively, at the beginning of a customer-supplier relationship whether you were on one side or the other, you had expectations for how business would be conducted. And if those expectations were not fulfilled, how did it make you feel?

Even when we know that setting clear expectations is important, a surprising number of us are disappointed that expectations were not met. In fact, according to the International Journal of Human Resource Management study, 58% of employees perceive that their employer is not meeting their expectations with regard to having a voice in decisions. This suggests that something has gotten in the way of the desired behavior of setting clear expectations. Given this, it’s worthwhile to reflect on the role we may play as leaders through our actions or a skill gap.

“As a leader you should not only set expectations for your direct reports, but also constantly ask them what expectations they have of you as their leader.” – Taiwo Olajide


A Set Of Anticipated Behaviors

Expectations are the set of behaviors or actions that individuals anticipate when interacting with others. They are our beliefs about what will happen. Everyone forms expectations of how a transaction or exchange will take place. When expectations are met, trust is built. When expectations are not met, trust is broken.

Expectations are set by what you do, not just what you say. Others may be watching to see what example you set. Therefore, a great place to begin with setting clear expectations is to set clear expectations with yourself. You can ask yourself: What are the expectations of me? And what are my expectations of myself in this role? How do I choose to act? Many leadership coaches call this self-management or self-regulation, which is the ability to control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions effectively (and consciously) in different situations.

“Self-regulation or management is a byproduct of self-reflection, as we reflect, we become more self-aware in how we set expectations and then we regulate if there are gaps in how we set expectations.” Coach Taiwo.


Set Expectations For Others

Remember that each situation for setting expectations for others may be different. For example, values expectations are about ethical behavior and other Human Resource policy expectations. When it comes to treating others with respect and inclusion, the expectation of a strict adherence to guidelines is non-negotiable.

In other cases, situational leadership might be called for where you flex your style to meet another person where they are. A new direct report or colleague may need direction, and so your expectation will be different for them compared to an experienced team member who knows the role or process, where the expectation is that you delegate to them. 


Get Smart

Underlying your behavior on setting clear expectations is a conversation skill where you reach an agreement on what is expected. An example of setting expectations through a goal is: “Launch a mobile app; achieve 50,000 downloads; using existing coding skills; to meet a market need; by Q4.” This goal is specific about the work to be done without being vague about what is expected to be accomplished. The expectation is that once launched, a measurable quantity of downloads result. The expectation must be achievable and relevant to the position and be time-bound.  


The Key To Everything 

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart stores, was quoted as saying, “High expectations are the key to everything.” One can interpret this in two ways. Everything may refer to a holistic self. In other words, setting expectations for yourself and others that reflect work-life balance, and a growth mindset where you learn from your mistakes and missed expectations. It could also be interpreted in the sense that expectations are foundational to team interaction, customer success, and business results. Setting clear expectations and meeting them is the key to innovation, customer loyalty and profitability. On the other hand, the lack of clear work-related expectations is cited as the number-one stressor by 31% of employees according to one survey.


A Coach’s Perspective

The next time expectations need to be set, or feedback reveals the lack of clear expectations from you, reflect on your role in these key conversations with a goal of modeling the behavior you want to see, and practicing the skills of strong goal setting. If you feel stuck, or in need of perspective, a TaskHuman coach is a resource at your fingertips.

Write down three questions that will form the foundation of a 1:1 conversation with a TaskHuman coach about setting clear expectations. Formulating your questions will make for a productive coaching conversation. Then, use the TaskHuman app to connect with a coach – search by topic or name to book an in-app call.


Book your session with Coach Taiwo Olajide or another leadership coach today! 


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