Avoid Miscommunication by Exchanging Expectations for Agreements

A common CEO complaint is that their expectations are not being met. It happens often—the CEO is expecting a certain result from one or more of his team leaders and ends up disappointed when he doesn’t get what was expected and in the desired form.

This problem results from “management by expectations”, rather than management by agreement. When a certain result or level of performance is expected, but not agreed to, there will be challenges.

The details of what is expected may not be clear to the subordinate, even when you are certain they are. Take Ron, for example. The CEO of a medical education company, Ron complained about a disappointment he experienced with his entire leadership team. “They’ve been with me a long time. They know what I wanted.”

It was obvious from the disappointing result, however, that his assumption in this regard was incorrect. In fact, all of his team members thought that they had more time to give Ron what he requested. All believed they were in the process of giving he what he wanted.

“slow down and go over the details of the performance and results you are expecting.”

If your team leaders are disappointing you, two things need to change:

First, however painful it might be to you, you need to slow down and go over the details of the performance and results you are expecting. Second, you need to obtain a clear detailed agreement from your team leaders with regard to the result and the performance you are seeking.

This is management by “agreement”, which requires that you take all of the following steps for every expectation:

1. Discuss the specific details, even if you think what you’re looking for is obvious. What exactly do you want? When do you want it by? In what form do you want to receive it? When and in what form do you want progress reports?

2. Once you’ve presented the details, ask for an agreement. If you are told that it’s not possible or that there are priorities that might affect the outcome, negotiate. But get to a place where there’s an actual detailed promise made by your team leader.

3. To be certain, and to reinforce your agreement, ask if there’s anything that might get in the way of performance as agreed.

4. Ask to be advised immediately if anything comes up preventing complete performance.

5. Finally, ask if the agreement requires any assistance from you.

Follow these steps whenever you are seeking some action or some result from your team. The burden on your leaders of clear agreements—promises made with regard to specific performance—makes it much less likely that you’ll be disappointed.

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Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel is a New Jersey-based executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and groups to achieve their leadership and sales performance goals.

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