How to Effectively Manage Expectations

Under sell, over perform. Under promise, over deliver. We’ve heard these idioms for generations. They’ve helped people lower expectations, while elevating realizations of goals. However, this can actually cause issues with creating clear expectations for employees while hindering overall growth and employee engagement.

According to a Gallup study, 72% of millennials say that when their managers help establish clear performance goals, they are more engaged in their work. While the modern workforce craves clear expectations, meeting employee’s needs can be difficult in this arena. To help their teams better focus on the end goal, there are specific ways leaders can effectively manage expectations in their organization.

Be Clear

One of the major fallacies leaders fall prey to is assuming everyone is on the same page. Regardless of how clear you think you’re being when setting expectations for employees, key aspects of your plan have the ability to be lost in translation. This simple truth can be seen in the children’s game “Telephone.” When a message is passed from one person to another, it can be changed, updated, or misunderstood. To avoid this issue, create clear expectations that are simple and have a conversation with each employee to ensure both parties understand what’s expected of them.

Be Concise

Lofty goals and audacious dreams can help a team strive for greatness; however, sometimes large plans can get misconstrued due to the many facets of a project. As the old saying goes, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. It’s okay to not get too focused in the weeds to set goals with your team. Be concise and deliver expectations in a more manageable way. If you’re presenting complicated information, it’s more likely that you and your team could have a misunderstanding. So be sure to simplify your communication whenever possible.

Be Timely

When delivering clear and concise expectations, it’s important to factor in two specific aspects of time. First, you need to set expectations early—the sooner your team understands what’s needed, the sooner they will be able to get to work. Uncertainty causes an anxious workforce. Ease their minds by setting expectations in the beginning. Second, your communication needs to include a specific timeframe the employee can work around, including due dates and deadlines. Open-ended projects without a timely goal can cause unneeded stress and procrastination. Even if a project doesn’t have a finish date, create one to help you and your employee work within a more organized box. If you tell your team to “Just work it into your schedule,” more than likely they will push it off to work on more immediate problems.

Be Consistent

Sometimes leaders fail to effectively communicate expectations because they aren’t consistent when it comes to follow-through, as well as repetition. When leading others, you can’t simply “Set it and forget it” when it comes to expectations. To be successful in this area, it’s important to open the lines of communication in order to develop consistency among you and your team. Have weekly check-ins to monitor progress and allow for questions, concerns, and feedback. Realistic expectations should be woven into the fabric of your organizations day-to-day work life. With consistency and repetition, you’ll ensure a culture conducive to results.

One more thing to keep in mind, employees are more bought in when they know their leaders are following through too. So set expectations for yourself and communicate them to your team. This will help with trust and accountability and can lead to higher employee engagement and motivation.

How do you set expectations among your team? What have you done to help your employees understand and buy in to goals? Let us know in the comments section below!

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