Have you ever been disappointed by someone not meeting your expectations?
Maybe the question should be how often in the past three months has someone disappointed you by not meeting your expectations? Chances are they’re people you have confidence in and can perform, but they fall short. Why?
One reason that stands out the most is they didn’t hear you. They stopped listening. Instead, they started having a conversation in their head before you finished setting the expectation.
Say you’re talking with Robert, one of your direct reports. “Robert, I’d like you to work with Mary and Larry to complete task ‘XYZ’ before the end of next week, because our direct purchase customers are looking for more inventory. Can I count on you to get this done?”
Robert eagerly responds, “Yes.” Even though he’s thinking about something else while you’re setting the expectation, Robert still says yes. Your request evokes thoughts about working with Mary and Larry who he’s had difficulty with in the past. He’s also thinking about his workload and how he might have to miss his son’s baseball game. He missed basic details such as the expected completion date and why the task was necessary.
When setting expectations with others, ask for a response showing they understand what you’ve just said.
Do not simply accept a “yes” response; that doesn’t convey if they heard you correctly. Before going your separate ways, seek their understanding with a statement like this: “Robert, I want to be sure I covered everything. Walk me through your understanding of what I’m looking for.”
Robert’s response will confirm if he received the full message or only part of it. If he only received part, then you’re able to make corrections before he begins the assigned task.
It’s also good to immediately state a big-picture consequence. In this example, it might sound like this: “If we don’t get this task done in time, we could lose business to our competitors.”
When people clearly understand your expectations and why they’re doing something, the probability of delivering on your expectations has just gone up. This approach could be a game changer for you!