Clearly Communicating Expectations

I’d venture to say that mismatched expectations are one of the biggest causes of miscommunication for pretty much every relationship, business and personal.

Knowing this, it makes sense that as leaders we would want to do everything we can to make sure that our team has a clear understanding of what our expectations are about… pretty much everything. This is easier said than done. The challenge is that a lot of our expectations are based on assumptions.

“I didn’t realize I needed to ask you to send that email. I assumed from our last conversation that you were going to.”

Those assumptions can really bite us in the…. butt. What? I was going to say butt.

Mismatched expectations based on uncommunicated assumptions is frustrating for everyone involved. Which is why eliminating this source of frustration is worth thinking about.

Think about whether you are consciously establishing the context, goal or vision for what you want to achieve with any, and every, initiative.

For better or for worse, the people on our teams are not mind readers. The danger is when we think we know what’s going on in someone else’s head. It’s better to just eliminate the possibility that your team is even trying to get inside your head by being blatantly clear about your intentions.

Often this requires a certain amount of transparency. (Which one could argue is a very good thing in a cooperative organization anyway.) Because in addition to communicating intentionality, it’s often useful to add some context as to why you intend for something to happen. Without a) intention, and b) some context that helps people truly understand the intention, it’s far too easy for our team members to simply fill in the communication blanks by trying to guess what we’re thinking, what’s required of them to make it happen, and why it’s important.

For more effective communication that goes a long way towards eliminating assumptions and clearly communicating expectations…

  1. Before you speak (or write that email), take enough time to make sure you’re absolutely clear about what you want to accomplish and why it matters.
  1. Think about the strengths, abilities and job function as well as the key motivators of the person or group you want to engage in order to accomplish the initiative and make sure it’s a match. This doesn’t mean setting the bar low by only giving your team tasks that they already know how to do. Challenging our people to reach higher is another key factor of good leadership. It simply means that we take the time to evaluate whether we are putting people in the right seats on the bus.
  1. For your own benefit, write a brief, but clear, statement of intent that outlines what your desired outcome is and why you desire that outcome in the first place. If you can, include known key motivators that will help your team buy-in and get excited about what you want to do.
  1. Communicate your statement of intent, ask for buy-in, and clarify questions.

What do you think?

Since one of the main tasks of a leader is to lay out the vision and set the course for our teams to follow, clear communication is often the most powerful and effective tool in our toolbox. It should never be an afterthought or something we leave to chance.

Are you taking the time, as a leader, to think through and construct a focused, potent, directional statement of intent for meetings and interactions with your team? Are you doing the same for proposals and requests you make to your superiors?

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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