Top 10 Ways to Set Clear Expectations

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Wait! You can’t read my mind?

Too often, that’s what managers inadvertently expect from their employees about job expectations. Rather than set and communicate clear expectations – the milestones against which employees are reviewed and rewarded — they assume their employees know what to do and how to do it. The result? Healthy teamwork, initiative and productivity take a back seat while hesitation, indecision and focusing on the wrong priorities reigns.

At PRC we strongly recommend that managers don’t rely on mental telepathy. Rather, they remove the ambiguity and get everyone on the same page by setting consistent and clear expectations. Check out the tips below on setting clear job and project expectations for employees that will set standards for excellence and get you the results you’re looking for.

Top 10 Ways to Set Clear Expectations

  1. Start with a vision of what you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed.
  1. Discuss how you would define “excellent performance.” Answer the question, “what would success look like?” If you expect high levels of teamwork and collaboration, then describe what that means to you. Don’t assume they already know.
  1. Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step to follow. Your goal is to guide, not control. Letting individuals find their own route towards productive outcomes encourages them to use their strengths to their fullest potential.
  1. Tie the goals of the department to each role. People want to know that their role, whether large or small, makes a difference.
  1. Put expectations in writing! It provides you with simple documentation to refer back to if there is ever confusion.
  1. Stay on the sideline. You may be tempted to run in, play the game and make the touchdown for your employee. But if you do, no one learns a thing and your employee feels disempowered.
  1. Give feedback—and often! The annual performance review is too late to let staff members know if they are meeting your expectations. Schedule informal review time weekly (up to monthly or quarterly for larger departments). Consistent feedback throughout the year sounds more like coaching and less like micromanaging.
  1. Ask for staff members’ feedback on how they think they are doing and how they think you’re doing. The more two-way communication, the greater the clarity around the expectations.
  1. Give positive reinforcement. Mention the things you like and you’ll get more of it. Be specific, highlight the impact and deliver it as close to the positive event as possible.
  1. Don’t take it personally. When staff members don’t perform as you think they should, look for solutions, not blame.

We specialize in providing practical tools that leaders can use immediately to set consistent and clear expectations and provide ongoing feedback. View our list of our most popular leadership training topics.

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