Are You Setting Clear Expectations?

Setting clear expectations is very important to keep everyone on track and to avoid situations that can derail the team and may end up affecting your succession plan.

Bob was getting ready to transition ownership of his operation to his two children. He was heartbroken because he and his wife had built a successful operation and were in a position to begin transitioning it to the children. The papers were drawn up, but he felt that he couldn’t move forward because his successors couldn’t get along.

Bob was full of regret because, although he had allowed his children to work in the operation, he had never spent time addressing the conflict nor had he set expectations for how they would run it – together. He felt he had not set boundaries regarding how they should treat each other. As a result, there was tension in the operation, and he felt his family was at the point of dividing.

This isn’t an uncommon situation. Setting clear expectations is very important to keep everyone on track and to avoid situations that can derail the team and may end up affecting your succession plan.

To make sure expectations are being clearly set and are understood, follow these steps.

First, clearly articulate what you expect. If there is one thing that is true for most people, when we are moving quickly, we don’t communicate well. We believe others will either instinctively know what we want or they will be able to read our minds. If you have a process you want someone to follow, you cannot just tell them the outcome you are looking for – you must be willing to walk through each step. Document core processes if they must be followed by everyone.

Next, have them repeat back to you what they heard. Most of the time, you will find that they are not able to accurately repeat what you said. This will give you an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings before anything is executed.

Finally, you must check in and to be prepared to have a conversation if behavior is out of alignment with your values. What gets measured gets done. If you aren’t addressing behavior that is unacceptable, you will find that it will begin to occur more frequently. For example, if one of your values is “we put our family first” but there is no clarity regarding what it looks like in action, it will have no meaning. Taking time to talk about what a value statement looks like in practice is critical. Holding people accountable when they are acting out of alignment with that value or expectation is equally important.

Relationship dynamics are powerful. Once two people begin to repeatedly act in a disrespectful manner to each other, it becomes more and more difficult to change that behavior to a healthier state. If you have patterns of behavior that have been firmly solidified over many years, you may choose to schedule a time to talk to everyone involved. Look for the root causes of the conflict. Is there lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities? Is there a lack of structured communication about the operation that is causing confusion and misunderstandings? Once you have clearly identified the cause, it is much easier to establish an agreement that everyone can support and be accountable to.

This holiday season, take time to rethink your relationship dynamics and make an effort to make a lasting difference in your relationship dynamics.

Never underestimate the power of establishing clear expectations and accountability. It may take a little extra time in the beginning but will save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run.

Article by

Rena Striegel, President
Transition Point Business Advisors

Learn more about The DIRTT Project.