Have you had an experience where you expected, or assumed that someone would behave in a certain way, and they didn’t? Frustrating, right? Quite often we make assumptions about the way people will behave without expressing these expectations verbally. These expectations of ours come from life/job experiences. When these expectations are not met our reactions can be “extraordinary”, to the point of negatively affecting the relationship. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, these potentially destructive situations must be avoided. That’s why I consider the discussion of Expectations to be nearly as important as that of Trust and Communication.
Organizations also have expectations about how work is to be performed, and how members are to relate to one another. These expectations are part of the culture or personality of the organization, but
you won’t find them in job descriptions, goals or action plans. You usually can’t even find them in any orientation or training program, but they are there. They just aren’t openly discussed. It’s all part of that unknown and ambiguous world called “Assume”. How many times during the day do we assume that someone else knows what we know?
What are the results of not communicating expectations? Beyond permanently affecting a relationship there are other consequences, including lack of commitment to the job, less productivity, and lower product and service quality. Why does this happen? I’ll answer that question by telling you what other writers have said about the importance of communicating expectations. In the book, “Creating the High-Performance Team,” written by Bucholz and Roth, communicating expectations, related to tasks and relationships, are the first thing a manager should do when a team first comes together. It creates stability in the group, and can prevent disruptions related to tasks and personal conflict. Charles Coonradt, in the book “The Game of Work,” states, “One problem in business today is people are not being told what is expected of them. There is a productivity crisis. In the workplace, when expectations are clearly defined and uncertainty is minimized, it is easier for people to have the satisfaction of meeting expectations.” Stephen Covey writes, in “Principled-Centered Leadership,” “Life can be thrown out of kilter with uncertain expectations, shifting limits, or arbitrary rules.”
In my organizations here are examples of expectations I have had for those I work with:
1 “No” is not an answer
2 Everyone is to be treated equally and fairly
3 Teamwork will be obvious
4 Know what the customer wants
5 Act professionally (attitude and thought)
6 Do what you would expect if you were the customer
To establish expectations for your organization or group begin by asking yourself what assumptions do you have about how people are to perform tasks and work together. Are they reasonable expectations and are you willing, and able to model the behavior? If not, you cannot demand them of others. The leader that understands the importance of communicating expectations and modeling those expectations has the potential of gaining employee commitment, increased productivity, and improved quality and customer service.