Unclear expectations are the bane of a leader’s existence both in the giving and in the getting. A leader who communicates unclear expectations is a conflict avoider. And a conflict avoider, of course, is not a leader.

UNCLEAR EXPECTATIONS AND CONFLICT

The leader of a multi-million-dollar division of a publicly traded organization says it has been years since the division has achieved its strategically planned targets. He has a mindset of personal accountability, so he looked inward for a solution to his problem rather than trying to blame it on his staff.

His revelation: He wasn’t making his expectations clear to those who work for him. He wasn’t setting benchmarks, revealing his non-negotiables, and getting buy-in from those he expected to do the work.

Unclear expectations are the bane of a leader’s existence both in the giving and in the getting. A leader who communicates unclear expectations is a conflict avoider. And a conflict avoider, of course, is not a leader.

GET CLEAR

Before you can be clear with your staff about your expectations, review those expectations and ask the following questions:

  • Is what you are expecting doable?
  • Are the resources available?
  • Are the roles clear?
  • Is authority established in each role?
  • Is this group supposed to work as a team or in a “chain of command”?
  • Has the group had an opportunity to ask questions and even push back until each member of the group or team can say, “I own this fully”?

Get a “yes” to each of these questions, and then you can say as a leader, “Let me be clear. We are capable of this. Meet the expectation or expect not to be here. I will not rescue, fix and save underperformers as I have in the past, and I will ensure, from now on, that I am available so you can bring me any issues that your team is unable to resolve. Let’s work together. If one of us fails, we all fail.”

WISHY-WASHY IS A THING

Few things are more frustrating to high-performers than wishy-washy direction. Constantly changing your mind about when something is due or what must be included in the final product tells your followers that the deadline is flexible or that they can decide when to finish the work. It frustrates colleagues who depend on each other to get Step A finished in time for Step B to begin.

© andrewgenn - Fotolia.com

© andrewgenn – Fotolia.com

Others might be comfortable with a suggestive style and can “go with the flow,” not knowing if or when they will be caught halfway through a project that is needed immediately.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people who work well with suggestions and only occasional clear directions. That might work for your company, as long as new hires understand that’s how you run things. Let people know what they are in for, so they can opt out if your style and your company’s culture won’t work for them.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you spend more time as a leader firefighting than offering strategies where you are needed?
  • Have you learned the concept of accountability but still don’t hold people accountable?
  • Do you remain poor at setting clear expectations because you fear people will call you an inflexible tyrant who is hard to work for?
  • Do you hit your metrics but just barely and by having to employ heroics?

Be accountable. Figure yourself out. Leader be clear!

 

 

 

 

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