Expectations Matter

the 2 pound coin

A typical scenario for a small business:

Imagine for a moment that you have recently promoted one of your star performers, Laura, from your technical team. Of course, she has a great track record, and is delighted with her promotion, she is keen and ambitious. However, she does have a few doubts about what’s expected, and didn’t feel quite ready yet to step into leadership, but she really wants to make a go of it.

As the manager of that productive and ambitious individual, you might be tempted to make a few assumptions like;

  • Laura knows what she is doing, so she shouldn’t have any problem with the team.
  • I’ve given her enough good example on how to lead the team.
  • She can be just like me and do it my way; after all it’s worked well so far.
  • And of course, if she gets stuck, she can always come to me for advice.

But what if you put yourself in Laura’s shoes, and ask what assumptions she might be making? They could be;

  • I don’t know if I can turn to the boss for help if I need it; that might undermine the trust he has placed in me.
  • This is going to be really hard work, especially with one or two of the team.
  • I haven’t had any training, so what am I going to do?

Before too long, you realise that you are not getting the results you expected, your new leader has not got the team working as well as they were before the promotion, and now you are worried. Will they deliver that project and meet the customer’s deadline? Should you step back in and lend some help?

And Laura is also worried and stressed. She is not sure about what to do, or who to turn to for help. After all, you placed your confidence in her and she doesn’t want to let you down; so she is stuck.

What we have here are two sides of the same coin.

By making assumptions, both you and Laura have ended up stressed and worried about what each of you are thinking.

Expectations Matter:

The answer here is really simple. It just needs a conversation, an open and honest conversation about expectations, and as Laura’s manager, you should initiate this as early as possible, begin it by asking Laura some questions;

  • How clear are the goals and projects which your team are going to deliver?
  • What do you think I need from you as that team’s leader?
  • What’s getting in the way of achieving that?
  • What do you need from me, so that I can best support you?
  • How frequently do you think we should get our heads together?

If you have promoted someone recently, and you are wondering why they aren’t getting the results you expected, I suggest that a conversation might be overdue.