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Communicating Expectations – Surely your team can read your mind?

Communicating Expectations – Surely your team can read your mind?

Leading and managing people can be frustrating at times.  Sometimes leaders can only be as effective as the teams they lead.  If there are team members who are not meeting expectations this process becomes more difficult.

As a team leader, you may have in your mind, the expectations you have of your team.  You may expect that they arrive at work at a certain time.  You may expect their work to be of a certain standard or that they work together with the rest of the team in a certain way.   Those expectations can only be effective if your team know about them.

Many performance issues arise when team members are unclear on what they are required to do.  They go to work each day doing the best they can, but they can’t seem to make headway with their boss or team leader.  It feels like something isn’t gelling. 

It is likely that the team member is a talented and skilled member of the team and very capable of doing the role or undertaking the tasks required.  If the boss hasn’t communicated their expectations (out loud) then they may be showing signs, expressly or not, that they are not happy with the work which is occurring.  The boss is likely becoming more and more frustrated because those expectations are not being met and the team member has no idea what they’ve done or not done.

For those reasons, leaders and managers should make their expectations clear through effective communication.  A person on your team can never hope to meet expectations if they don’t know what they are.  Your method of communication may vary depending on whether you are considering professional expectations or behavioural expectations.  Either way, communication is key.

Whole of team expectations should be communicated where possible occurring in a group meeting setting, with all team members present.  Having everyone together ensures that all teams members are hearing the message at the same time.  You will avoid team members missing out and receiving second-hand information, or information delivered in a manner you didn’t intend.

When you explain the expectations be clear on why they are important.  For example, if the issue is team tardiness explain that clients arrive in the office from 8.30am, that it is important we are all ready to go at that time.  The intention is that we are hitting the ground running at that time, not arriving, organising breakfast or a coffee, turning on the computer and getting ready.  Explain that this sets the tone for the day and keeps everyone kicking off with the same mentality.  It also means that those early birds aren’t frustrated by late arrivals impacting a day they have already started.

If the issue is how you measure team performance, it’s helpful to share stories of your personal experience, after all your experiences are what will have shaped your expectations.  Letting the team know how you have worked in the past will help them understand your reaction when a request about team performance or appraisals is out of the blue.

In these team settings seek feedback from the team members – ask what do they think? Do they have anything to share that might assist everyone being on the same page about the issue.

Individual team member expectations should be managed personally on a one on one basis.  Share your expectations with your team member, let them know if there are difficulties in how those expectations are not being managed.  Seek feedback and consult with the team member – the difficulties which have been occurring might simply have been a misunderstanding after all.

Important expectations or announcements in new ways of doing things should be followed up and confirmed in writing via email or however staff announcements are made for you.  In documenting the discussion you have had with the team, be sure to capture any input or feedback from the team.  Make sure that your expectations are clearly recorded.

Importantly, if you expect your team to behave or work in a certain way, lead by example. “Walk the walk” and “talk the talk”.  Talking about and confirming expectations in writing is not sufficient.  If you expect the team to be working and ready to go for 8.30am, do the same.  If you expect no gossip at the photocopier, don’t do that.  If you expect everyone to work as a team, lead your team and do that.  Whilst as a leader or manager you may have some leeway as to how your day is managed, being seen to toe the line with core expectations ensures that your team understand the importance of them and are more likely to follow your direction.

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