How to... have conversations about expectations

Understanding Expectations

Expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. It is the event considered most likely to happen where there is a level of uncertainty. Expectation is a belief centred on the future which may or may not be realistic. Disappointment is the result of expectations not being met. Setting clear expectations and checking they are understood is a key requirement for success in organisations.

Things to consider

Useful Questions

Most of the time expectations are not met is because they have never been made clear. You may have thought you have been clear – it may have been clear to you. Often implicit assumptions haven’t been understood

Sharing the expectations you do have is better than sharing none at all just because you don’t believe your expectations warrant listening to or following

Feedback is a really important mechanism to ensure common understanding of expectations, and to deal with things a they change

Sometimes in a changing environment or where expectations haven’t been clear at the outside a certain amount of negotiation needs to happen. It is good practice to engage the other person in the setting of expectations in the first place

This is a question you can ask of yourself and also of the other person. We often don’t like to admit we are not clear on expectations. We worry we have missed something and don’t want to look stupid. It is more important to ensure we have clear expectations so this can be a powerful clarifying question to ask and provides the space for others to be open and honest

Self disclosure and offering what others can expect from you can be a quick way to establish a good relationship and begin to build trust

This question is useful for teams and can start a good conversation about mutual expectations

Asking this questions can form the basis of establishing clear expectations aligned to priorities

Engaging in a dialogue to find a path forward can help lay clear expectations that re co-created

We often don’t like to speak up about what we want. Asking this question or one similar about people’s wants can help get clarity on which to build joint expectation

Videos on Expectation

Useful Reading & Resources on Expectations