What are your expectations?


Photo by Roland

Today, as part of our marketing class, we had a guest lecture by Allan Watkinson from Gallup Consulting. Watkinson gave us a lecture about employee and customer engagement and Gallup’s Human-Sigma concept. I must admit it was a fascinating lecture that dealt with many of the things I write a lot about here in my blog.

Watkinson covered a few subjects that I will probably write about in following posts, but I think one of the issues that stood out for me was the subject of expectations. One of the things Gallup consultants encounter constantly is employees, even employees in high positions like executives, who are not sure what is expected of them. One of the main questions used to assess managers in the Gallup model is whether their employees know what is expected of them.

Now the notion by itself is not new for me, and I read about its importance as a question to predict managers’ effectiveness in “First, break all the rules“, but I think the importance of this concept can’t be stressed enough. More than that, this concept is not only important for managers. I actually encountered it in almost every professional and personal engagement I ever took part off.

Think about it. In teaching or presenting, setting expectations is one of the most important things. It is the first leg of “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them”. In coaching, setting expectations is the first step to create a viable relationship between coacher and coachee. I have heard about so many personal relationships that have failed or suffered because the couple did not communicate their expectations (including some of your truly). In the last few months, I have experienced first handed the importance of setting expectations in a team setting. And above all, as I write in my e-book, I believe that as an employee you should be active and set your expectations from the role to your manager.

So, if setting expectations is so important and crucial to success in so many parts of life, why most people don’t do it? Why do so many managers, couples, teachers and more are failing to set expectations correctly?

I don’t have an answer for that. I do know that you can easily differentiate yourself, no matter what it is that you do, by setting expectations.

So, when is the last time you set the expectations up front?



8 Responses to “What are your expectations?”

  1. Jonathan Barel Says:

    I would say that people have the same problem with expectations they likely do with goals (see the auto-generated link at the bottom of your own post: http://jerrytice.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/expectations-vs-goals/).
    The problem of evaluating, quantifying (or at the very least _qualifying_) events in the future is confusing, imaginitive, and requires constant re-evaluation.
    That’s kind of scary and difficult, is it not?

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Hey Jono,
    What you are saying is totally right, but this is not the point I was trying to make.
    The fact that it is hard should not stop us from trying to set them. The question of whether we succeed or not is a different question all together.
    You are right that it is hard, but if people would not do hard things, where would be?
    Thanks, as usuall, for your insights!

  3. Jonathan Barel Says:

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but you _did_, in fact, ask “why most people don’t do it?”
    While it might have been a rhetorical question, in its place it seemed to beg an answer.

  4. Jonathan Barel Says:

    What on earth am I saying. Of _course_ I mean to nitpick.

  5. Jonathan Barel Says:

    And just one more comment spam.
    The thing is that I find the idea of quantifying and qualifying goals (and, by association, expectations) is not only an unknown concept to most people, but in fact anathema to many people’s way of thinking.
    The suggestion that life should be planned, that milestones should be examined, the thought of doing anything other than accepting events and opportunities, seems to offend people.
    Like exercise, it suggests that you’re not taking care of your own life the way you likely should.
    It’s why “The Secret” and that damned monk and his bloody Ferrari have such an effect on people. Control of your universe is an appealing concept once people are exposed to it. It just doesn’t have to come in such a heavily saccharinated package.
    Ultimately, the old addage that “No battle plan ever survives an encounter with the enemy”, doesn’t mean you should rush blindly into everything WITHOUT one.

  6. sherfelad Says:

    My dear angry friend,
    You are making the assumption that expectations and goals are the same thing. The fact that they are sometimes used interchangeably does make them the same things. From all of you mad ravings I am not sure if you are pro-goals or not, but I personally think they are a good thing. But setting expectations is something altogether different. Say for example that you start to work for me. Wouldn’t you like to know on what issues am I expecting you to report and in which you don’t? say you start working in a team. Wouldn’t you like to know how decisions will be made in the team and what is your ability to decide without consulting the team? These are important things that have nothing to do with goals.
    Now, for your issues with goals. That, we will have to solve some other time…
    Have fun!
    As always, our discussions are enlightening

  7. Jonathan Barel Says:

    haha… Not angry, and not anti-goals.

    I’m not confusing goals and expectations. I’m implying that they come from a similar need.

    Expectations, just as goals do, allow people in our life to evaluate their progress and achievement. It’s a gauge, as well as a taret mark. The difference is that goals are what I expect of myself.

    They’re great things. But they’re not easy to do: http://lifehacker.com/5055020/why-goal-setting-makes-you-cringe

    Expectations are no different. Getting someone to meet your expectations? In a work environment, you risk hearing “don’t tell me how to do my work”.

    Expectations require open communication, and trust.

    Again, I’m not against the idea. I’m trying to get to the underlying difficulties of doing it.

  8. sherfelad Says:

    I am not sure that setting expectations in a workplace is equivalent to telling people how to do their work, even though I can see why it might be perceived that way. You are right o say that expectations is all about communication.
    I still don’t think goals and expectations are alike. And I don’t think they present the same problems for both sides – managers and individuals. But, I am not sure this is something we will be able to resolve here…

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