Whenever I watch a business show on television, I am amazed at the number of times the word “expectation” is used to describe the performance of a company’s perceived value and stock price. It seems that investor “expectations” often drive stock prices in the market. When a company exceeds expectations, the stock price skyrockets and when a company does not meet or is below investor expectations, then prices plummet reflecting the dissatisfaction of investors in the performance of a company.
This same drama plays out on a much smaller scale with leaders and their individual team members. Expectations play a big part of an effective relationship. The only problem is that all too frequently expectations in the mind of the leader versus expectations in the mind of the follower are unclear, confusing, and ambiguous. Yet, everyone wants to know what is expected of them. We want to be clear about our obligations and duties. We want to be able to anticipate the outcomes and requirements necessary to be a good performer and add value to an organization.
Expectations bind us together; they are the fabric that forms a relationship. Expectations play a key role in building trust and confidence as we anticipate the probability of someone executing necessary duties. When trust is high, we value and leverage our relationships more. When expectations are not achieved our trust bank account is depleted.
Expectations are a key driver in the motivation and engagement levels of people. When people understand expectations and buy in to them, they work harder to fulfill those expectations just like a company does in the financial market. People want to know what is expected of them so they are then able to make decisions about the intensity and discretionary performance they are willing to give towards a task or job. When coaches create a two-way agreement with their team members about expectations, they set the stage for the extraordinary performance necessary in a highly competitive world
CMOE is an advocate of a simple process that we call “the alignment meeting” as a tool to define and clarify expectations. The alignment meeting or discussion should occur periodically with any team to maintain a clear picture of everyone’s expectations. These alignment meetings only take one or two hours with a typical team. They should occur more often for teams that are in a state of change or are in conflict, and less often for stable and harmonious teams. Every time CMOE associates have facilitated an alignment meeting, the topic of feedback coaching and mentoring always surfaces. People have a thirst to know how they are doing, where they stand, and where they are going. They don’t want to be a non-performing asset in the enterprises portfolio of resources. Most people want to be productive contributors, but in order to do that, they need information, feedback, and guidance from a coach. This dynamic creates a “perfect storm” for the leader. If the leader is able to capitalize on the need people have for feedback on their performance, and solidify an “expectation’s agreement,” the leader will then be in a position where people seek out and expect coaching and feedback. This creates a legitimate reason to coach people on key factors that will drive performance for the team and the individual. Coaching then becomes one of the central expectations of the team’s culture. When a leader needs to courageously engage anyone on the team about an important topic or situation, they have an expectation platform or a “license” to operate from. The leader has an understanding that it is their duty and obligation to share information, direction, and feedback. It becomes the normal thing to do; no one feels singled out or targeted. In turn, when feedback is lacking, people on the team are more likely to ask for it and hold the leader more accountable to perform coaching tasks.
The license to coach makes it easier to give and receive coaching. It becomes a natural process. Everyone buys into it because everyone understands that to run a business, you need to be able to talk to people about their performance. When leaders create a license to coach by bringing sound skills to the process, people will excel and even exceed your wildest expectations.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.
Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries.
Steve enjoys the challenges of
• Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business.
• Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations.
• Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans.
The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.
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