Filling the Expectations Gap

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By Heath Betts, Nexstar Network Leadership & Culture Coach

The hardest expectations to manage are the ones we don’t know about

As a Nexstar coach, I have the enormous privilege of traveling across the United States to visit our members’ shops. Most companies, I’ve noticed, have a lot in common – especially when it comes to success and struggles! The largest challenges I see most often are those surrounding clear communication.

If you lead a team, you might feel that you’ve done a great job of communicating your expectations to everyone. But now, your people aren’t performing, or they aren’t accomplishing the things that you think they should. However, I’d be willing to bet your team thinks they’ve accomplished a lot. In fact, right now, they’re saying, “I went above and beyond; I did more than what I was supposed to do.”

So, now what we have is this enormous expectation gap. An expectation gap is the space that lies between what we expect to happen and what actually happens. And in the middle of that gap, there’s anger, disappointment, and a lack of trust from both sides. We need to do everything we can to get rid of that gap! And the only way to do it is to attempt to reset expectations in a clearer way.

Everyone on your team should know exactly what’s expected of them in the role that they perform. They need to know what their goals are, and the clearer we can be about those goals, the more effective your team is going to be. That way, when things start getting crazy and ideas start flying in and people want to go in all different directions, you can bring them back to what’s expected, what the defined goals are, and what things need to be accomplished for those goals to be met. Then your team gets to focus on the work that they know they need to be focused on, instead of going all over the place and getting into other people’s lanes.

Sounds easy, right? It can be, if we’re intentional about how we go about this. A great exercise to help you clear up your expectation gap is to sit down with your team members and conduct an Expectations Exchange. Ask them, “What do you believe is expected of you?” Then, you can share what you expect of them. Compare notes and get clarity – this will go a long way towards eliminating that gap.

Another thing that you can do is have your team write down answers to the question, “What do you expect from me as a leader?” You, as the leader, can write down what you believe they expect from you. Now, compare notes. Read all the answers out loud. I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience; you’re going to discover a lot of things. And the things you’ll discover will help you get rid of that expectation gap. Imagine that: Getting rid of that anger, frustration, disappointment, and lack of trust. Moving forward with your team to work more effectively. With that expectation gap removed, you’re going to have lots more fun coming to work and accomplishing great things together, too!

Heath Betts has owned and operated successful businesses in five different states. During his career, he has taught HVAC technical classes for a local community college and for manufacturing companies. Heath has coached more than 300 HVAC companies and provided mainstage presentations to thousands. He loves to see organizations succeed, and helps Nexstar members understand how culture and leadership affects the health of their companies.

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