Leaders Build Trust by Clarifying Expectations

Disclose and reveal your expectations. Be specific. Validate your expectations by explaining the “why” behind them. Renegotiate if expectations are not getting met. Don’t violate your own or the organization’s expectations. Additionally, never assume the expectations are clear or have been shared.

The opposite of clarifying expectations is to never define them or ask for anything. Whereas not defining expectations or asking can be rare, a common “counterfeit” version of this behavior is Guessing. When you don’t pin down specifics, people will go with the flow of the situation based on their own interpretation. Meaningful accountability happens when there is a clear definition of results and deadlines; in their absence, however, we risk individual discernment that isn’t based on the mission.

I think of Patrick Lenicioni’s third Behavior of a Cohesive Team: Commitment. When teams have vulnerability-based trust and healthy productive conflict, it sets the stage for solid commitment. There are two key components to commitment: Buy-in and Clarity.
Clarity is such an issue in organizations that Lencioni made it a recurring topic in his book, The Advantage. In my work with groups, any time we push crystal clear clarity, measurable improvement happens.

What to do instead?

Say things like this:

  • What exactly do you want me to deliver? By when?
  • What are the measures of success?
  • How will we know we delivered?
  • What do we care most about–quality, speed, or cost?
  • What resources do you need to deliver results?
  • How and when will we follow up?
  • What have you understood from this conversation?
  • Who else needs to know about this?
  • What do you see as your next steps?
  • What do you see as my next steps?
  • Things have changed; let’s review what we expect from each other…

Stop guessing and being unclear. Clarify Expectations to build trust.

Next week: Practice Accountability.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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