One of the greatest barriers that teams face is a lack of clarity over roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. Where clarity is an issue, typically there will also be a mismatch of expectations.
Expectations management can be used to provide clarity with respect to unstated or implied expectations. It is the process of discussing what each person in a relationship expects of the other. Oftentimes, the mere thought of doing this frightens people. They think if they know the other person’s expectations, it will be difficult to live up to them or they believe that it means that one person doesn’t trust the other. In fact, neither should be true. Exchanging expectations is about clarifying roles and responsibilities. It is about understanding what the requirements are for doing a good job. It is about knowing what the other person believes is required in a given situation.
Why do we exchange expectations? We do it to know what is important to the other person, to know what the “rules” are, to fulfill what is hoped for or desired, and to know what the boundaries are in the relationship. We do it to understand how we will be rewarded, how we will be sanctioned, and to be clear on the requirements in either situation.
Some people believe that there isn’t a need for expectations exchanges; that we should all know what is important to others. My experience has proven different. Performance management processes are expectations exchanges. Typically they are one way – the manager tells the employee what is expected in terms of the job role. Rarely, during these processes, does the employee have the opportunity to discuss what s/he expects from the manager.
It is my belief that expectations exchanges should be two-way and they should be frequent. After all, if I don’t know what my manager is expecting from me and s/he doesn’t know what I am expecting from him/her, how do we work together effectively?
A simple exercise is to discuss “what I expect of you” and “what I think you expect of me.” The following template is a good starting point. Essentially you create two lists with the following headings:
- What I expect of you
- What I think you expect of me
Try it out with someone with whom your expectations are not aligned and let me know about your experience. Was it helpful? What did you learn?Each individual completes each section of the template above and then has a conversation with another team member to discuss each other’s expectations. The objectives of this exercise are to gain clarity over people’s roles in a team and to develop an informal but clear “contract” between team members about how they are going to work together. This tool can be used in personal and professional relationships including aligning expectations between departments and customers with suppliers.
Expectations Exchange is a module in our innovative Management Moments© program. This cohort-based program combines the best aspects of leadership training and coaching to ensure application, reinforcement, and retention of learnings. For further information, contact us at Wilma@transcendmgt.com or 403.547.7900.