Where’s the bar? Not the one you might visit for a drink with friends, but the bar of expectation. Managers and leaders set the bar of expectation for team members. But how do you do at communicating where that bar is? And how team members are doing at reaching it?
Expectations and feedback go hand in hand. They are the inseparable bedfellows of leadership.
We’ve mentioned the concept of up-front agreements a lot. There is no place more critical to set these agreements than with expectations. The two concepts are deeply entwined. How can a team member perform to the standard when they don’t know what the standard actually is? Laying out clear expectations of a project, a report, or anything else is an essential component of setting up your team members for success.
Expectations are more than just a task list. They are also more than just the bottom line ultimate objective that must be met. Expectations go beyond the superficial. They help define the road map your team member can follow to meet the ultimate objective.
How much should you dive into creating that road map? That’s a great place to follow the lead of your team member. They know how much guidance they’ll need or want. Some of us are hard-wired to want less specific instruction on the ‘how’. We like having the freedom to figure that piece out. Others prefer having more details on the project execution. Know your team members and how they work. If you do, you’ll already have a strong sense of what each one needs from you.
The inseparable bedfellow of expectations is feedback. No matter how well you did at laying out clear expectations and crafting the road map, if you don’t give feedback on how your team member did, you’ve failed. No two ways about it.
Much like with expectations, everyone has their own way of receiving feedback. Your goal should be to find out what type of feedback each of your team members prefers. How often do they want feedback? Where are they doing an excellent job? Where might they need more support? Every feedback session, regardless of how informal, should include two key questions from you at the end: “What do you need to move forward? And how can I support you?”
Entwining the Two
Expectations and feedback are like yin and yang. Each one has merit on its own. But the real power comes when they are combined. On the road to becoming a stronger leader and manager, these should be consistent travel companions the whole way.
It’s also important to remain flexible with both concepts. You may need to revisit or check in about expectations. If you find a team member is going in the wrong direction or struggling, you may need to clarify expectations. Feedback on how a project is going may lead to an adjustment in the ultimate outcome. Does that require revisiting the expectations? Maybe. At least confirm the expectations moving forward.
Remain in dialogue with your team members. Those regular conversations are pure gold when it comes to staying on top of what’s happening. They will allow you to proactively address challenges. Taking the time to set clear expectations and give regular feedback ensures that not only will your team members know where the bar is; they will feel more confident in their abilities to reach and exceed it.