[December 22, 2017] A few months ago I had the opportunity to witness good leadership on the part of our Boy Scout Troop Scoutmaster. A new 12-year old scout was about to go on his first campout. The scoutmaster had a long conversation with the scout explaining the potential problems and the opportunities such a trip would provide. Like any good leader, the scoutmaster knew to set and manage expectations to address the future.
On the campout, the weather was stormy and colder than normal however I heard from the new scout’s dad that it was the greatest weekend the boy ever had. I was there and thought the weather actually detracted from the experience yet the new scout enjoyed camping. The reason, I believe, was that the scout understood what to expect and was not surprised (or disappointed) by the lack of perfect weather.
I’ve seen failures among leaders at all levels; most who have done an inadequate job of “expectation management.” It is common for junior leaders to forget about setting and managing expectations but senior leaders rarely do. To see leaders setting and managing expectations, the best place is to listen to political speeches.
“More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.” – Simon Sinek, British-American author and motivational speaker
Politicians are always trying to manage expectations. They neither want to overplay nor underplay what they want us to understand. How do they do it? How does any leader set and manage expectations? The following is a simple list of rules regarding this very important topic:
- Whatever is done, expectations must be made absolutely clear. There is no room for miscommunication on this issue.
- Know what is in your control and what is not. This helps ensure where the limits are in expectation management.
- Have a good understanding of where one needs to actually set or manage expectations. Relevant experience helps a leader target their resources best.
- Have a good grounding in the fundamentals of and knowledge about the organization and the types of issues that should be managed.
- Get a commitment to what is being discussed either by having it in writing or some form of verbal agreement that is witnessed. This way, there will be a lower risk of misunderstanding in the future.
Leaders must ensure – at whatever level they are – that expectations are clear, concisely communicated, and encompass the relevant areas being addressed. Failure to do so will eventually result in more serious problems in the near future.
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