Expectation Setting

An essential leadership skill is being able to set expectations appropriately. You have to be explicit, vocal, and clear. We all know it, we all use the term often enough, but do you actually do it?

Setting the right expectations is one of your main levers to ensure people are going in the right direction, and correcting course swiftly when they meander off the right path. However, too often with my clients, I see that it’s only actively done as part of the hiring process, and that’s where it stops.

Here are examples of regular expectation setting opportunities that you should consider incorporating into your organization’s process:

  • Hiring: Just because this is the one people usually do, it doesn’t mean we should neglect it! Interviewing is the first place where you should make sure people know what they’re getting themselves into. This spans from job responsibilities through office working hours to company values.
  • Regular feedback/1:1: You with your direct subordinates and on to all your managers, should ensure that as you provide regular feedback, you keep in mind to let the team know what you expect going forward. Are they not being productive enough? Should they be communicating more? Merely providing “general feedback” isn’t enough. Set the expectation of which behavior changes you intend to see to help them measure their progress.
  • Career planning: You are discussing their advancement once a quarter or so, right? Don’t forget to be clear about what it will take to consider a move, be it getting a new level, becoming a manager, switching teams.
  • Promotions: Once a job change happens, you have to be clear on what should change from this point on. Of course that making someone a manager isn’t just a formality, it requires coaching and training, but this even applies to becoming a Senior engineer and similar transitions.
  • Interviewing: The other side of the coin for hiring. What do you expect of interviewers as the face of the company, of the bar they set for new hires, and of diversity and their biases that should be kept in mind?