“Why bother???” Because people behave better when both parties establish expectations…and that’s a darn good reason. In a personal relationship, it may just prevent a statement like this: “What do you mean my mother isn’t welcome on our honeymoon?! You know I never leave my mother out!”
In a client relationship, it may just prevent a statement like this: “We expected this new software to include 24/7 access to your programming department!”
The funny thing about expectations…it takes a catastrophe (or 2, or 3) for us to start setting them. We get better at doing so based on previous mishaps. As a speaker and trainer, I learned the hard way, how the lack of expectations can really botch things up, so I started a productive habit. (Kind of like committing to always wear your seat belt after that time your face met with the steering wheel.)
Years ago a consortium of hospitals hired me to design and deliver a Patient Service Rep program to 20 people who were at the tail end of collecting unemployment checks. The goal was to give these folks the skills to land a good job in a number of medical facilities hungry for more staff. I designed a 9-week program (1 day/week). For the first 4 weeks, I witnessed some of the worst behavior I’d ever come across in a training room! Participants showing up late, leaving early, not returning after lunch, and even skipping a day without notifying me, (and to add insult to injury, they’d ask me to give up my personal time to go over stuff they missed). Two participants even mocked one another in the middle of training. No wonder they were unemployed!
I knew it wasn’t content or delivery. As a facilitator, I’m engaging, entertaining and I have a knack for solving problems – but this group had me stumped! It took 4 weeks for me to see the writing on the wall. I had never set expectations for these participants, nor had I inquired about their expectations. And just as importantly, I was unclear about the consortium’s expectations. What would they expect of these participants? Or of me as the facilitator? Would they expect me to overlook bad attendance or kick the offender out of the program? I called to find out. I also began the 5th week, by discussing mutual expectations with the group. It worked like MAGIC. They behaved better. From that point forward, participants cleaned up their attendance and their attitudes, and their level of engagement in the program increased 10-fold. The majority of the group were securing job interviews by the end of the program and 70% landed jobs within 6 weeks.
Since then, I learned to put a high priority on mutually clear expectations – that includes my clients’ expectations of me as a speaker, their expectations of my program’s deliverables, and also, their expectations of their own employees during the program. That information helps me to set expectations for my participants at the start of a program.
Setting expectations is a mutual responsibility. That means both parties must have a say in the matter in order for the relationship to work. The previous post revealed three common pitfalls that hinder the majority of supervisors from discussing relationship expectations with their employees. Fear, Assumptions, Uncertainty. (Did you answer the questions at the bottom of that last post?) I also assured you that the process of setting mutual relationships is much easier than you think. When it’s done right, even relationships that are damaged, will often flourish in ways that can seem miraculous. Supervisors who have taken this process seriously have had success in…
- Rebuilding trust in a damaged relationship;
- Transforming a disgruntled employee into a trusted advisor;
- Turning a competitive or lackluster team into an interdependent force;
- Eliminating employee silence.
Some have even shared with me how the process helped them on the home front by…
- Creating healthy boundaries;
- Turning a Win/Lose relationship into a Win/Win
- Restoring intimacy that had seemed long gone
A new habit is far more likely to stick when you understand the science behind it. So before I reveal the extremely simple format for discussing mutual expectations, consider the following “science”:
Why do we need them? Mutually clear expectations ensure all parties are on the same page and working towards the same goals. They act as a reminder when one of the parties inadvertently goes off track. And the biggest benefit…they allow both parties the chance to be heard. (Do you know how high that ranks on the human-need-chart? If not, think about a time when your significant other screamed “LISTEN TO ME!” in your face). The act of expressing your expectations, whether you are the employer/employee, girlfriend/boyfriend, sales rep/customer, etc., makes you feel important and that’s important!
Why do we fail to provide them? The Dave and Claudia story provided these answers. There may be more, but the three main reasons employers and employees fail to sit down and discuss their expectations, are FEAR, ASSUMPTIONS, and UNCERTAINTY.
When should they be discussed? Interpersonal expectations are meant to build trust and understanding, provide certain permissions and prevent common issues. In a perfect world, this is done at the onset of a working relationship between employer and employee, supervisor and direct report, sales rep and client, etc. If that’s not the case, than start today! It’s never too late to do what you haven’t done! And remember, as roles and circumstances change, expectations in relationships will often change, therefore it is imperative to make the discussion an interactive process between you and your employee.
A GREAT EXAMPLE OF EXPECTATIONS hangs on the wall of every health care facility and is given out to patients undergoing medical procedures. It’s called Patients and Rights and Responsibilities and its usage is required by law! Here is a tiny sample:
As a patient at _________________, you have the right to:
- Considerate and respectful care.
- Appropriate assessment, education and management of pain.
- Privacy, confidentiality, etc., etc., etc.
As a patient at ____________________, you have a responsibility to:
- Give full information about your health, medication and supplements.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Follow hospital rules, doctors instructions, etc., etc., etc.
If you think about it, the healthcare facility is actually saying this to their patient:
- Here is what you can expect from us…
- Here is what we expect from you…
YOU can use the same simple format to set expectations with your employees! It doesn’t get much simpler than this! When providing a multi-session program, I always make it a habit to discuss expectations with my participants. Below is a brief example of the expectations “page” I provide participants:
1. What I expect of you:
2. What you can expect of me:
|To attend each session from start to finish.||To offer everyone an even playing field.|
|To advise me of any emergency preventing you from attending and retrieve missed information from a peer who was present.||To be firm enough to keep the class on track, yet flexible enough to “switch tracks” when appropriate.|
|To honor the opinions and privacy of your peers participating in these sessions.||To get answers to your questions, even if I have to come back with the answer later.|
|To practice what you learn and complete any “between session” assignments.||To respect your opinions, privacy, needs and input.|
|To be honest with me about what’s working and what’s not working (ex: areas where you are unclear, stuck, or hesitant, etc.)||To hold you accountable to “grow” over the next ________ sessions, and to gently push your buttons and expand your comfort zone.|
3. What other expectations do you have for me that I haven’t mentioned?
Did you notice question #3? That’s the one that builds trust in the supervisor-employee relationship! You’ve already told them what they can expect from you, but what about the expectations they may have of you that you didn’t mention? Question #3 gives them that chance. And don’t worry; you don’t have to agree to everything they mention. This simply allows a discussion to take place. It gives them the chance to be heard (“basic human need”)!
How can you tweak this form to work for you? What would you tell your employees they can expect from you? And, what do you want them to know you expect from them? Here’s your chance to start the process! Johnny will send you a free template AND a fantastic “real time” example (created by Tim, a 3rd shift production supervisor who took our supervisor skills program). Visit Johnny’s toolbox and submit a quick and easy request.
Johnny, signing off…
Johnny Supervisor is a platform dedicated to strengthening the weakest (yet most important) link in the chain of command — through developing superior supervisors who are committed to the company’s smooth succession. Follow Johnny for articles, resources and recent trends in healthy succession at the supervisory level. By the way, Johnny travels well!
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