Negotiating expectations: Essential strategy for SMART supervisors.

Negotiating expectations is an essential strategy for a successful work force for SMART supervisors.
Negotiating expectations for SMART supervisors.

Negotiating expectations: An essential strategy for SMART supervisors.

Employees sometimes find themselves working in the blind: They’re not sure what they should be doing or they’re not doing what the boss wants done. After expending a great deal of effort, they hold up their shining result only to discover that it’s not at all what the manager had in mind. It’s not what the manager expected.

Expectation defined.

Expectation is the strong belief that something is going to happen or a set of circumstances will exist at a certain point in the future. Expectation is the belief that someone will or should accomplish an activity, or set of activities, or behave in a predictable way that leads to an anticipated result.

Every manager knows, on some level, what s/he expects of the employee. Vice versa, every employee knows what s/he expects from the boss. Problems develop when the two have not negotiated and come to agreement on what each can expect of the other with regard to workflow.

A cycle of disappointment.

Expectation is a factor not often considered in discussions of supervision and workplace productivity, yet it has incredible impact on mission accomplishment. Employees can’t possibly deliver if they don’t know what the supervisor expects. But disappointment can go up the chain of authority as well as down. Employees are bound to be disappointed if the supervisor doesn’t behave as expected.

For example, you are a supervisor who expects your employee to work independently and get the job done. Your employee, however, needs more guidance or direction from you on what “get the job done” means. This confusion can become a vicious cycle!

Resolving expectations.

An excellent success strategy for leaders is to sit down with each employee and negotiate expectations. Find out what your employees’ strengths are and what motivates each of them to produce. A key exercise in Progressive Success’s New Supervisors Workshop teaches how to negotiate expectations with employees, combining clear communication, empathic listening, and mediation skills. Clear communication ensures that the expectation is understandable and conveyed with clarity. Empathic listening techniques involve hearing with an intent to understand the speaker and see the conversation from the speaker’s perspective, which is, in turn, a critical factor in the negotiation process.

Developing SMART expectations.

When conveying expectations, you’ll get the best results if you’re SMART about it. SMART is the well-known
acronym for Specific, Measureable, Achievable (or Attainable), Relevant (or Realistic), and Time-Bound (or Timely). Ensure your expectations are clear, the results can be quantified, the outcomes are possible, they’re pertinent to the goal, and meet established milestones. An expectation that can meet all five criteria doesn’t leave much room for confusion.

How to negotiate expectations.

Your negotiation could involve such issues as reaching agreement on the wording of a policy statement, reaching agreement on the desired outcome of a meeting, or identifying the best solution for a problem in the workplace. In a negotiation, your objective should be to find the best way to satisfy each other’s needs, not to be the winner who takes all. The most successful outcome of a negotiation is a win-win – each of the parties should walk away feeling like winners (though that’s not always possible).

Begin with an analysis to bring your expectations to the table. Determine what you expect and, as accurately as possible, predict what the other party expects. In your own analysis, it’s always good to ask yourself why you want what you want. This will help you get a better understanding of what your real goals are and could open up better outcomes for you.

Be sure you have chosen the correct time and place for the discussion. Forbes contributor Selena Rezvani offers her thoughts on The Five Best Times To Negotiate On The Job. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, you can negotiate expectations one-on-one in a conference room or private office and at a time when cool and rational heads prevail. Don’t try to have a negotiation right after a negative event or when one or both of you are angry. This tip works for relationships in the workplace as well as relationships at home!

Compare your expectations lists and look for areas of agreement, then focus on the areas of conflict and seek ways to negotiate a win-win. Throughout the process, each should always keep in mind the needs of the other. Strive for a meeting of minds.

Workplace benefits of negotiated expectations.

Each party to a negotiation of expectations should be able to walk away from the table, if not overjoyed, then at least satisfied. That’s actually a win-win-win outcome – each of the parties wins and the organization wins too! Productivity increases when employees are clear on what you expect of them and mission specific goals are achieved. Employees are happy to produce when they can expect you to support them and offer assistance and guidance when it’s needed.

If you are struggling to get your employees to produce, perhaps you should sit down with them and talk about expectations. Clear communication is always the first step in resolving a workplace issue.

About the author: Calvin Swartz is President and Founder of Progressive Success Corporation, a management consultancy specializing in executive leadership coaching and training. Reach out to Cal on LinkedIn, at AskCal [at] cox [dot] net, or @AskCalS on Twitter. License: Image author owned.
Featured images:    License: Creative Commons image source;   License: Image author owned.

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