We are proud to share the next in our series of TRE’s cultural “roots”, guideposts that have been identified by TRE as critical to our work. Read more about this organizational effort at www.tre.org/blog-tre-roots/.
TRE Root #12 – CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS
Avoid misunderstandings by discussing expectations upfront. Establish mutually understood objectives and deadlines for all projects, issues, and commitments. Where appropriate, confirm your communication by asking others to repeat back their understanding to ensure total clarity and agreement.
Clarify Expectations is an important Root for the work we do at TRE because our systems and processes are complex and most of us are managing numerous expectations and commitments at any given time. Clarifying expectations is the foundation for a culture of accountability. Our work is grounded in the making and managing of commitments, agreements, and promises. These commitments directly impact a person’s access to or benefit from the services we coordinate. These commitments affect outcomes for people directly.
Making and managing commitments is a collaborative process and clarifying expectations is a key piece to driving the outcomes we are seeking for people. Clarifying expectations is about being very clear in your request, seeking assurance of understanding of that request, and then validating the response to the request. I was fortunate to participate in a discussion with Chalmers Brothers, a consultant on leadership. He describes the necessary components for establishing clear expectations and resulting accountability to the commitment that has been made.
When you are making a request or setting an expectation, and in order to be successful you need:
- A Committed Speaker – Someone who is taking the time to clearly explain the expectation and the why of the expectation and is taking the time necessary to be clear on the commitment expected. This is someone applying our cultural root, Speak Straight.
- A Committed Listener – Someone actively listening to the request and expectations and applying the Cultural Root, Listen Generously.
- Clear Future Action & Conditions of Satisfaction – The committed speaker is clear in the expectation being expressed, the result/product/outcome expected, and the actions needed by those involved. The committed listener asks clarifying questions as needed and shares concerns or potential challenges.
- Timeframe – The committed speaker and listener clarify the timeline.
- Context and Mood – Setting the right context for the request you are making or the commitment you are seeking and creating a mood of collaboration sets a tone for results.
Once an expectation has been clearly established, a commitment should be confirmed, and the potential of these responses to this commitment include:
- Yes, I agree to this expectation
- No, I cannot commit to doing this
- Commit-to-Commit – I may not fully agree, but commit to the expectation
- Counter-Offer – I have another idea as to how we can achieve the outcome
“I’ll try”, “Maybe”, or no answer at all are not valid responses to a request or commitment.
I have found that there are times when I leave a meeting with someone thinking we are both on the same page about what is expected, only to find out later that there were very different interpretations of the expectations, or not full buy-in of the expectations. This delays results and often creates challenges in relationships when all the involved parties are not clear on the expectations. I’ve also learned that with the people we serve, we often need to repeat and clarify again the expectations they can have on our processes and commitments to action. Their ability to retain information from our conversations can easily be affected by the multitude of activities they are involved in to secure services or the broad range of stresses they may be experiencing in their lives. This requires us to apply our Cultural Root, Show Grace.
As you go about your work, consider the following:
- Reflect on and talk within your team about a PAST-TENSE / HISTORICAL / ALREADY HAPPENED REQUEST that hasn’t produced the desired result you or your team were seeking. Discuss:
- What led up to the conversation; the “bigger picture”?
- Who’s involved and what’s their relationship with you?
- What were you hoping the conversation would produce? Be as specific as you can.
- What actually happened “back then” – What did you actually say?
- How did the other person actually respond?
- What took place – or didn’t take place – after the conversation? What were the results?
- Reflect on and talk within your team about a REQUEST THAT YOU HAVEN’T YET MADE BUT ARE CONSIDERING MAKING IN THE FUTURE. Discuss:
- What’s going on – what’s been happening – that has you thinking about making this request?
- Who are you thinking about making the request of?
- What are you thinking about requesting, and why?
- What are you wanting the request to actually produce or bring about? Be as specific as you can.
- How do you think the person may respond?
- Why do you think the person may respond that way?
- Share your thoughts on clarifying expectations – how does this root show up in your work to support people?