Managing Professional Expectations in Leadership Is No Easy Task

As leaders, we expect employees to perform their jobs competently when we assign tasks and projects. The details for which (we are sure) are crystal clear. When the work is complete, we anticipate the outcome will meet all of our professional expectations. But some leaders often find themselves disappointed in the work product. Did the employees disregard their instructions, or did the leader not manage expectations? Maybe both are true. 

Even the best project managers occasionally have team members who fail to deliver. Workers sometimes miss due dates, don’t prioritize, or plain misinterpret expectations. When held accountable, they learn to grow and succeed, and just as importantly, you learn to create reasonable expectations genuinely communicated in a way that is clear to everyone.

Here are 6 tips for managing professional expectations and improving accountability for deliverables:

  • Be Clear: Start by giving clear instructions. If they do not know your expectations, how can they know if they are reaching or missing them? Be explicit about what you want.
  • Be Timely: Give prompt feedback if you’re dissatisfied. Don’t wait until their six-month review to address the problem areas. Hold people accountable as soon as you see performance slip. Otherwise, you aren’t being responsible for your unmet expectations.
  • Be Consistent: Don’t play favorites. Your expectations should apply to everyone on your team. 
  • Be Discreet: Avoid criticizing people in front of their peers. The humiliation, coupled with that experience, will often lead to more significant negative consequences. 
  • Be Gracious: Forgiving a person who has failed to deliver on professional expectations is sometimes a way to set up a better performance in the future.
  • Be Balanced: This is an incredibly important concept. There is nothing written on a stone tablet that says all forms of accountability must be negative. You can hold people accountable for what they have succeeded in doing well. Catch people doing something right!

Above all, make sure you remain accountable and manage your professional (and personal) expectations.

People will take their behavioral cues from you, so practice what you preach. When you’re wrong, promptly admit it. When you miss your marks, own it. Above all, don’t blame others for the mistakes you make. We all make them.

How do you handle expectations on the job? Have a personal experience you’d like to share?

Bill Treasurer

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is a bestselling author, leadership consultant, and creator of Q Cards. He is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. His workshops have been taught to thousands of executives in eleven countries on five continents. For more than two decades, Bill has designed and delivered programs for emerging and experienced leaders from such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, eBay, UBS Bank, Spanx, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to founding Giant Leap Consulting, Bill served as an executive in Accenture’s change management and human performance practice, eventually becoming the $35 billion company’s first full-time internal executive coach.

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