Leading With Expectations

If you lead a team as a lead wolf, then your expectations of others are very important for your business results and for the best possible development of your employees. The relationship you have with your supervisor is also important to your success and enjoyment at work.

We often assume that expectations of each other are clear. However, in reality mutual expectations between superiors and staff are often somewhat – or even very unclear. Then we might be inclined to make assumptions begin to interpret or perhaps even worry – all because expectations are unclear. Therefore a fundamental tip: Replace assumptions with clarity, who is supposed to deliver which result in which quality and when?

Recent research has shown that communication problems with the direct supervisor are one of the main reasons for dissatisfied employees in the workplace. This situation often originates in a failure of the supervisor, who has not clearly communicated his expectations to his employees. On the other hand, employees should not wait when in doubt, but ask questions in order to proactively clarify unclear expectations. In today’s fast-paced world, I find the responsibility for clarity and clear expectations lies primarily with the supervisor, but also with the direct report.

But how do you lead with expectations? Here are my 5 best tips for you:

1. Clarify expectations of yourself

The most important human being you lead as a lead wolf is yourself. Those who want to lead others, first have to lead themselves. Be clear with yourself. What do you expect from yourself? What goals do you want to achieve in the near future? Set goals that motivate you, that challenge you and are achievable. Do not compare yourself so much with others. The only person you should compare with is last month’s version of yourself. And if you progress in your development and achieve your goals, then you have succeeded.

So tip # 1: Clarify expectations of yourself.

2. Align expectations with your boss

Also clarify the expectations of your boss. What exactly is she or he expecting from you? What constitutes success for her or him and for you? What is great success? As a beginner in my own professional life, I assumed that my supervisor’s expectations would be clear. That was naive and wrong. Because without conversation, we are sometimes miles apart in our mutual expectations. At the beginning of every working relationship with a new supervisor, it is invaluable to have a good conversation and to understand exactly what is expected of each other. It can also help to record the results of this conversation in writing and to exchange them.

So tip # 2: Align mutual expectations with your boss.

3. Clarify expectations with employees

If you are good at managing yourself and your superiors and have clear expectations, then it will be a lot easier to lead your employees well. Only then can high performance with enjoyment arise and that’s exactly what you want as a lead wolf.
But what exactly do your employees expect from you? And what exactly do you expect from them?
After some time in my professional life, when I realized that mutual expectations between superiors and employees are not always clear, I built myself a simple tool: The Expectation Talk. The aim of this conversation is to lay a good foundation for trustworthy, professional, successful cooperation. In this conversation, which I have with new employees, I ask e.g. where they are in their professional development, where they come from, where they want to go, where they have strengths, where they tend to be weaker, what inspires them in the workplace, what thrills them, what frustrates them and what they expect from me as their supervisor. Then I introduce myself, my strengths and weaknesses and my expectations of my new employee. Whenever I had this expectation conversation with new employees in their first few days, it was well worthwhile for both of us.
You can create clear expectations with a good job description, where clear results are defined for the job holder. And if they are missing, then complete and align them with your supervisor.
Another opportunity for creating clear expectations is in every delegation meeting. If you delegate responsibility for an important outcome to an employee, then please always ask your employee for an oral summary at the end. Only when your coworker speaks and you listen, can you really match clear expectations.

So tip # 3: Always, clear expectations with employees.

4. Avoid negative surprises

The most important basis for a really good working relationship is full trust. Trust arises when my partner says what he thinks and then does what he says without surprise. If this expectation is disappointed, then there will be a loss of confidence and the relationship will be damaged, often for a long time.
A self-experienced example: Once, as a young manager I independently started and completed an important project during my line manager’s three-week vacation. I assumed we would present the good results together. Instead, he came back from vacation, went straight to his boss and presented the results of my work without me. This behavior surprised me negatively, frustrated me and demotivated me.
Two other ways to reduce negative surprises are honest feedback and regular jour fixe, among others, an opportunity for reconciling mutual expectations.

So tip # 4: Avoid negative surprises.

5. Set high standards, allow mistakes, promote learning

Your expectations have a big impact on the development of your organization and your employees. If you set expectations too low, everyone stays in their comfort zone and there is no growth. Setting expectations too high can lead to overload and burnout. In your expectations, find a good balance between promoting & demanding, set high but achievable standards and, vis-à-vis others, take full responsibility for the mistakes of your team. Then internally have one-on-one feedback conversations to enable learning from mistakes. This promotes your teammate’s trust in you as the lead wolf, and allows them to learn and grow.

So tip # 5: Set high standards, allow mistakes, promote learning.

Summarized, my 5 best tips to you for leading with expectations:

1. Clarify expectations of yourself
2. Clarify expectations with your boss
3. Clarify expectations with employees
4. Avoid negative surprises
5. Set high standards, allow mistakes, encourage learning

Would you like a free effective tool to create a really good working relationship with your boss or your employees? Then get in touch with me, for example through my website.
Would you like more concrete tips and examples of good leadership, that you can improve immediately? Then visit the Leitwolf podcast. I regularly publish new content.

Thank you for your attention,
your Stefan Homeister

„Stefan, maybe you feel you can’t yet. But I am certain you will!” This is one of the most powerful...