Great Expectations: 3 ways to transform your leadership effectiveness

Culture Change

16th April, 2018

In my recent article of supporting your people on their transition from peer to leader I advocated the importance of new managers highlighting their expectations of their new team. Read on to discover the importance of you as a leader in effectively managing the expectations of those around you.

I’m sure at some stage of your career you’ve had that sinking feeling that the outcome you expected hasn’t been met, again! Whether it was that all important report, target or agreement you where sure that, this time, you were absolutely clear on what you expected to see.

A conclusion often reached is the capability of the people around you with thoughts like “they still don’t get it!”. Have you ever considered that one of the root causes of this challenge is often as simple as a mismatching of expectations, both yours and theirs?

The challenge multiplies itself when managing teams, not only can your mismatched expectations of the individuals effect their personal effectiveness it will also affect the whole culture of the team’s performance.

Follow my 3-step process to expectation management below and consider how more effective you could be by following these 3 principles:

Never Assume Anything!

Your priorities may seem obvious to you but to others they may mean nothing. How often do you clarify the importance of certain areas of performance and link them to your key strategic drivers? It may seem absolutely crystal clear to you how this one piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture but to others it may just be one more item on the “to do list” that gets a lower priority due to their own expectations.

  • Don’t leave anything to open interpretation i.e. “You know what I mean!”.
  • Give examples of the results you expect to see including where your expectations have or haven’t been met in the past.
  • Clarify your timeline and set periods for review prior to the deadline.

What’s in it for me and them

While your priorities are crystal clear do you fully understand the priority mindset of your people? One of the most inspirational bosses I ever worked for always started our 1-2-1 meetings with a review of my to do priority list. Any mismatch of focus was then dealt with and re-ordered to achieve a practical consensus.

  • Clarify your expectations in line with their own.
  • Understand their priorities and performance focus.
  • Link your expectations with theirs using the “bigger picture” for the entire team and business.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It’s very rare that an expectation mis-match is a result of someone intentionally not producing what you asked (or thought you’d asked) them to do. Most people understand the consequences of not performing and they won’t deliberately be attempting to sabotage you (hopefully!). When coaching teams, I often come across simple misunderstandings that cause a large-scale chain reaction of missed expectations on either side. Some simple communication principles can often alleviate misinterpretation before it becomes an issue.

  • Listening, the clarification of your request back from the person you are asking is essential. Often seeds of doubt or misunderstanding are missed in those first discussions. Be absolutely clear that you’re hearing back what you’ve requested and more importantly why they agree it’s important.
  • Make notes and share them. The coffee machine chat where you asked someone to do something or a post it note left on a PC screen won’t serve as a long-term reminder of what was agreed on both sides.
  • Keep in touch throughout the process from inception to deadline, any challenges or resistance need to be dealt with on an ongoing basis so that there are no surprises when it comes to delivery.

For more details on my approach to 4D Talent Coaching and how I can help transform your Talent Strategy please email Matt Williams, ‘The Talent Coach’ at

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