Wires get crossed all too easily

Many people still have trouble communicating their expectations of each other clearly and professionally. This in turn leads to misunderstandings, conflict and poor motivation. A common cause of conflict and inefficiencies is that people are not aware of exactly what they are meant to be doing.


9 = Excellent!
7-8 = Very good, room for improvement.
4-6 = You need to learn to communicate your expectations more clearly to those you work with. Make an effort to develop this skill.
0-3 = You need to get a mentor or a coach ASAP! These are important skills and you are losing opportunities to excel in your work.

Too often people do not know what is expected of them, or they do not have the skills to be clear about what they can and can’t do, what help and guidance they need and what, if anything, is causing a problem.

Whether it be in sport, in a personal relationship or in the workplace, people need to know what is expected of them.

Learn to communicate your expectations clearly and effectively to another person. The other person could be your manager, supervisor or team leader, a co-worker or team member, or someone you deal with in another part of the organisation. It could even be a customer.

Here are some tips:

1. Don’t assume your expectations are clear

Too often people assume that their expectations are clearly understood by the other person. It is important not to make this assumption, but to check that they have understood what you are asking them to do. You should not rely on unspoken assumptions or beliefs that the other person sees a situation the same way that you do.

2. Everyone to take responsibility

It is everyone’s responsibility to clarify expectations. If a member of a team is not meeting the expectations of the other members of the team, then each team member should find an opportunity to clarify their own and the team’s expectations. And if you are unsure that you have clearly understood the expectations of another person, you should accept the responsibility to clarify rather than proceed hoping that you have got it right.

It is perfectly acceptable to let your manager, supervisor or team leader know if your expectations of them are not met. Most people appreciate helpful feedback and you should not hesitate to clarify if there is any uncertainty.

3. Be specific

Expectations need to be communicated in a clear and specific manner. You need to say exactly what you want the other person to do so that there is no misunderstanding. And if it is about what you can or can’t do – be specific and make sure the other person understands clearly.

4. Listen and negotiate

If there is a dispute about your expectations, or another person’s expectations of you, listen to the needs of the other person. Keep the dialogue between you going until you can negotiate a set of expectations that both of you feel is achievable and reasonable. Agree on a common goal and make it work.

It is every team member’s responsibility to clarify what they expect of other team members. In today’s organisations, with the emphasis on empowerment, you should be able to tell your supervisor or manager what you expect of them.

Eve Ash is the co-producer of the award-winning Performance Excellence Series and the DVD entitles Coaching to Clarify Expectations.


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