Thursday, June 4, 2009

Setting Expectations

I'm preparing for an upcoming session for some Senior Managers and one of the topics of discussion is a common management process for their organization. One of the critical management practices in this process, is the ability to set expectations. This is a difficult task for many managers, because it is time consuming and really challenges the manager to think about what is important and how they will evaluate the accomplishments of the employee.

Consequently many managers don't do it. They assume the employee knows what is expected of them, and then wonder why they don't get the results they are looking for. It all starts with understanding the power and value of expectations. Managers today are so rushed with their own priorities and "to do lists" that they don't put the time and effort into ensuring that their employees understand what the priorities for them are.

Setting expectations can be a powerful tool to build trust with an employee, when the manager gets the individual involved in setting the expectations. Of course, new employees don't have the knowledge or awareness of what is appropriate, but once they have the knowledge and experience they prefer to be involved in the process.

Often times employees will set even higher expectations for themselves, than the manager and this increases the employees motivation to acheive the expectation. After all they set it. This process also provides a great opportunity for the manager to discuss what the priorities are. In this constantly changing business environment priorities can often change on a daily basis.

One of the critical aspects of expectations is that they need to be in writing. This eliminates the chance for confusion and misunderstandings. Again, due to the managers busy schedule, getting the employee to document the agreed upon expectations can save the manager some valuable time. It also confirms that the employee understood the conversation. It is important, however, that the manager read the documented expectations and provide encouragement and confirmation of the agreed upon standards.

Obviously this is only the first step in an effective management process but without this foundation all the potential feedback is generic and un-inspiring.

What are your thoughts about expectations?


  1. This is a great post, Dad! I think expectations are very important, and you're right... they often are overlooked. Keep up the great blogging!!! :)

  2. Jim, I agree strongly with your points as I am ver high on expectations. I also think that many managers fail to set expectations and then there is no way to know if you made, exceeded, or fell short of expectations. I think it is of utmost importance to communicate expectations upfront in order to reach success at the end.