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How to Build Clarity and Shared Expectations


I have been reflecting on the struggles that come with workplace dynamics and job expectations. One can feel confused as to why they are being asked to do certain tasks or shocked when they find out that certain elements of the job are not being performed. What is the common denominator?

Lack of clarity around expectations.

In a recent podcast of Coaching for Leaders, Dave Stachowiak interviewed Pat Griffin, they discussed the importance of clearly communicating job performance outcomes as opposed to specific tasks. By focusing on the outcome or result you hope to attain you ground the actions in the underlying “why” and this in itself allows for self-leadership, innovation, and deeper engagement. Additionally, creating clear standards of measurable performance help to define tangible outcomes and clarify shared expectations.

Here is an example: as the leader, you ask that each employee make at least 10 more sales calls each week. The schedules are adjusted to accommodate but the employee has no background knowledge of “why” they are being asked to do this. You are creating employee “followers” instead of employee “leaders”. In the same scenario you have another option, explain that in order to maintain business growth there needs to be a continual stream of new clients. First, ask for ideas as to how to best get to the annual target, remember, the people doing the work typically have incredible insight. This promotes creativity, innovation, and shows you value their perspective. Secondly, explaining how sales calls convert to new business exponentially you create a shared vision of growth and success.

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While hitting the targets are important, if they are not grounded in the understanding of the bigger picture you may miss important opportunities for greater success and connectedness with your team.

Lead with the “why” and together create the “how”.

Now let’s flip the coin, you are being asked to perform a task, how do you align expectations so that you both view success similarly? Pete Mockaitis from How to be Awesome at Your Job talks with Dave in one of my favorite episodes of Coaching for Leaders. This again comes down to clarity around expectations and communications.

Taking time to clearly define how you envision this project, what resources it might include, and what the end result will look like will serve you in the end. Compare these ideas with your bosses, do you have alignment? Have you ever described something to someone, thinking you have been very clear, only later to find out that what they envisioned was completely different? Don’t make that mistake.

Take the time to outline the specifics, ask lots of questions, don’t make assumptions, and check-in frequently to assess milestones and accuracy of vision. Investing in clarity and alignment will serve you well! Over-communication will help avoid disappointment and lost opportunities.

My Challenge to You:

  • Think of one metric that is communicated as a result only. Can you shift the conversation to include the “why” behind it? Can you invite others to participate in additional creative ways to meet the target?

  • Critically assess if your current project has unclear or assumed elements woven in? Can you find an opportunity to create alignment and dialogue with your partner?

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