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Leadership Tips: How to Clarify Expectations

June 30, 2022
Leadership Tips: How to Clarify Expectations

If you are in a leadership position, it's important that you're able to clearly communicate with your team, which includes being able to clarify expectations.

I was talking to a sales manager this week about one of his sales reps. One of the rep’s key projects this quarter is launching the sale of a relatively complex new product. While the manager knew progress had been made on the initiative, he was unsure of whether or not it would be done in time, and he didn’t have the time to check in on its status regularly.

I met separately with the sales rep, and while he was aware of the importance of the project, he and his manager were definitely not on the same page. While the manager viewed the project as a key objective for the quarter, the rep prioritized it after his lead generation and opportunity management activities. He was working on it, but only when he could spare the time. He needed input from other departments as well, and as we developed a project plan, it became clear that completing the launch by the end of the quarter will be difficult.

This situation could have been avoided had the manager and rep clarified expectations up front.

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Clarify Expectations

Here are three things to consider when clarifying expectations:

1. What are the expected results?

You may think this is obvious, but make sure you agree on specifics – dates, dollar amounts, and percentages are key. Are sales going to increase next quarter, or will one specific branch increase new client acquisitions by 30%? Those are different goals and will produce different plans!

2. What are the priorities?

Should this project or goal come before everything else the employee normally handles, or does it fit after the key tasks they complete on a daily basis? This is something I personally struggle with – my day-to-day responsibilities can easily occupy my time all week, and I find myself completing extra projects after work hours. If the special project or goal is a higher priority, is there someone else who will pick up the slack on other activities, or can some things slide?

3. How and when will success be measured?

If you have decided to complete a project by December 31, it’s probably not a good idea to wait until January 1 to see if it was completed. You definitely don’t want to wait until the books are closed in March! Develop interim metrics and milestones and track progress continually. Schedule meetings in advance to review the status of the initiative, and you will have the opportunity to make changes if you see things are going off track.

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What do you do to clarify expectations when setting goals or starting new initiatives?

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