What kind of expectations do you set for your team? Most people I speak with believe they set clear, concise goals that help their people focus on what’s important. Once the goal communication is done, they believe everyone has their marching orders and will carry on until the goals are achieved.

Setting expectations is about more than just setting goals or objectives at a point in time. Your expectations of others are set and reinforced every day by your actions and reactions to situations that arise. When that reinforcement doesn’t happen, you have what I often call “expectations-busters.” Have you ever experienced one of the following expectation-busters?

Goals are set and within two to three months most of the goals are completely irrelevant or have been re-prioritized to the bottom of the list. Business priorities change. That’s a given. However, if rapid goal obsolescence is a regular occurrence in your organization, it sends the message that leadership really isn’t sure where things are going or can’t make up its mind. The result is an attitude of “I don’t really need to put a lot of effort into whatever the stated goals are because they’re just going to change anyway.”

Once a goal or expectation is set, it’s never discussed again. If you give someone a goal, but the two of you never discuss progress against the goal, that person will assume it’s not a very important goal. He’ll assume you are really interested in other things.

Goals or expectations are set but rewards and recognition are given for things completely unrelated to achieving them. Remember the adage “what gets measured, gets done”? Well, when an expectation is set, the person assumes it has some relevance to his performance and in turn his salary increase, promotion consideration, and general recognition. Nothing busts expectations like seeing people rewarded for things that have nothing to do with meeting expectations and achieving results.

There is no differentiation in recognition when expectations are achieved, exceeded or not achieved. This is a corollary to rewarding things that are unrelated to achieving goals and objectives. If people who meet expectations and those who exceed expectations and those who do not meet expectations are not recognized and rewarded in any distinctly different ways, a high performer will become disengaged quickly and you’ll see overall performance migrate to mediocrity.

Setting expectations is not a one-time event. The relevance of those expectations is established on a regular basis. How you integrate setting and reinforcing expectations into your leadership approach will mean the difference between achieving expectations and moving towards excellence versus simply being mediocre.

Which expectations-busters have you been guilty of committing?

How can you get rid of expectations-busters in your organization?

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