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What Did You Expect The Key To Knowing How Well You’ve Been Understood

What Did You Expect? The Key To Knowing How Well You’ve Been Understood

One of the most powerful ways that insightful leaders can thrive is by managing expectations and communicating those expectations with the utmost clarity. Then, and only then, will you be in a position to evaluate whether or not you’ve been fully understood.

Let’s start by exploring the relationship of managing expectations between yourself and your team.

Ensuring Clarity and Communication of Expectations to the Team

I’m going to wager that you have the expectation that people will perform exactly the way you would perform. Am I right? Knowing that, is it clear that everybody understands what to expect as far as what good performance looks like compared to bad performance? Be brutally honest with yourself here. You either said it with clarity or you didn’t. If you didn’t, there’s no shame in admitting it, only shame in doing nothing about it.

Now, if we consider those members of the team who are presently disengaged after you’ve provided clear guidelines, what is our next move? Yelling? Public reprimand? You may be tempted to make an example of this person to display what happens to those who are not performing up to par – but wait. And don’t.

Here’s why: Say the person who is disengaged isn’t that way because he’s an intentional disruptor. It’s because he has a child who is sick. You didn’t know that. How does that change things? Are you still making an example of him? I surely hope not.

This is why checking in with people to ensure that they understand the expectation of your directive is so vital. As you notice that something is off with a key player on your team who has been consistent in the past, this is probably an opportunity to ask questions about how you can help them and communicate how they can be an active contributor (because they likely still want to be). Nobody likes to feel like they’re the caboose that the rest of the train is pulling along. They want to pull their own weight.

So help those people help you by sharing what you expect not only from them but the long-term direction of where you are moving as a company and how they can play a vital role. At the same time, continue to ask them what they need from you in order to perform at their best and exceed your expectations.

Managing the Pace of the Team

When you are driving on an expressway, the general expectation by now is that people who are driving slower in the fast lane will move over to the right of that lane. We’ve all been there – how frustrating is it to see someone taking their sweet time in a lane they’re not supposed to be in to begin with? But what happens if you’re in the fast lane, going 10 miles over the speed limit, but cars are still whizzing by you on the right-hand side going 20 miles over the speed limit, so you can’t get over out of their path? Meanwhile, people in the fast lane are tailgating you, and you’re boxed in.

I use this analogy to speak to the speed at which discussions and actions can occur with different members of the team as you aim to reach a mutual understanding of expectations.

  • Some don’t know what your expectations are, yet can’t wait to get to the destination.
  • Some understand your expectations fully and are moving along the road at a nice, steady pace – not too fast, not too slow.
  • Some are feeling like they’re moving fast enough but are overwhelmed by the others around them who seem to get where you’re coming from and going to much quicker.

It’s in this moment that everybody needs to reset and understand the point from where all of us are starting from:

  • What are the expectations of us?
  • Where are we expected to go?
  • How are we expected to reach that destination as a group?
  • What is the expectation leadership has of us to be successful?
  • What do they expect of us in terms of team alignment working toward this goal?
  • What do they not expect we will encounter along the way?

All of these questions are phrased not as “you,” but as “we” for a reason. When teams are marching to the same drum, it provides a shared experience and understanding of knowledge and expectations. In doing so, they educate each other, drive each other, encourage each other, and reach the finish line with each other. Expectations are not only communicated from the leader, but permeate throughout the team for what will hopefully be greater engagement.

So if you want to ensure that more members of your team understand your expectations, seek to understand them as individuals as well as how they connect as a team. When you manage by adapting to situational leadership, you will put yourself in a position to be heard, respected, and well understood. Onward.


[Editors’ Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following on-demand webinars (which you can listen to at your leisure and each include a comprehensive customer PowerPoint about the topic):

©2022. DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM. This article is subject to the disclaimers found here.

About David Spitulnik

David Spitulnik is a successful executive with over 40 years of experience in both large technology companies and in consulting to and leadership of mid-market, closely held and family owned businesses across a variety of industries. In addition to serving as chair of the Private Directors Association’s Private and Family Business Center Outreach Committee, David…

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