The other night, my husband was about to grill burgers for dinner. I kept nagging him about turning the grill on and getting started and he clearly didn’t have my sense of urgency. The third time I asked, I apparently got a little snippy, and he said, “What’s the hurry? Is there somewhere we have to be?” I realized, I hadn’t explained that the reason why I wanted dinner cooked as soon as possible was because my son, Evan hadn’t had his medicine yet, and he needs to take it with food. I assumed that my hubby understood that, but he was under the impression that I had already handled the medication. He said, “Why didn’t you say so? I’ll get started right away!”
For someone who knows a lot about communication, I sure messed up. I was so frustrated with the fact that he was taking a long time to cook dinner, when I was really frustrated with myself for not clarifying my expectations.
I don’t know about you, but I often catch myself making a whole lot of assumptions and holding people to expectations that I may not have clearly explained. The “A Player” concept that we discussed last week centers on making sure our expectations are clearly defined, and this applies at home or at work.
Try these 5 strategies to ensure you are setting clear expectations:
1. Be clear and specific about what you expect. This is often the most difficult step. Many times, we aren’t even sure of exactly what we want, and yet we assume others can read our minds.
2. Define your desired outcome. What do you want the end product or behavior to look like?
3. Explain what you do want, rather than what you don’t. We have a tendency to complain about the actions and behaviors we don’t like, when in reality, we haven’t explained the actions and behaviors we would like to see.
4. Clearly communicate these expectations and ensure understanding. Simply saying, “Do you understand?” is not ensuring understanding. Whether you ask the person to paraphrase, summarize, or re-explain, it is helpful to hear the expectation in their words to make sure you are on the same page.
5. Reward the positive and coach the negative. Whether at work or at home, remember that people repeat behavior that gets attention. If your expectations are met, make sure you say “thank you” or show appreciation. If your expectations are not met, before assuming the person intentionally disappointed you, make sure you communicated what you wanted clearly.
If your philosophy is that people are inherently good and want to do the right thing, the most important piece of this is giving them the benefit of the doubt. (If that’s not your philosophy, you might want to consider adopting it. It makes life a whole lot easier). Remember, we usually find what we’re looking for. If we look for the ways someone doesn’t meet our expectations, we’ll find them. Truly being an “A Player” means taking responsibility and giving clear expectations without assumptions. Remember what they say about assuming?