Clear Expectations vs Mindreading

Posted by Kristin Baird

How does a leader get everyone to achieve optimal performance? One sure way is to make clear expectations from the beginning.

Over the past several years of coaching leaders, I’ve noticed that many coaching conversations center on setting clear expectations. I’ve observed a distinct pattern that leaders aren’t clear about their expectations until a team member fails to meet his/her expectations.

“isn’t that just common sense?”

I was recently talking with a leader who was very frustrated with one of her supervisors. When she relayed examples of things that were irritated her, I asked if she had been clear about her expectations from the beginning. “Well, isn’t this just common sense? I shouldn’t have to micro-manage him,” she said.

First, there is a big difference between setting expectations and micro-managing. Additionally, the word “common” in common sense means shared or similar. Similarly, expecting common sense to prevail is expecting staff to be mind readers. I’ve never seen that work.

After further discussion, I learned the managers clear expectations, but they resided quietly in her mind. These expectations remained unspoken until her supervisor failed to live up to them. From his vantage point, there weren’t clear expectations. His common sense led him in an entirely different direction.

Above all, think about the expectations you have for your team. Have you been clear about them? If not, you could be disappointed to discover they aren’t mind readers.

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