by Kevin Eikenberry

It’s that time of year when we celebrate ghosts and witches and all things Halloween-y. Most of those things we consider “scary” aren’t real, so they don’t really make us all that fearful. Spiders, on the other hand…

Scary or a work of art?

If you aren’t too afraid of spiders, the next time you have a chance, stop and examine a spider web. What you will find is an intricately designed work of art and engineering marvel. Every part of the web is connected to every other part making the web both complex and powerful.   If any part is weakened or disconnected, the overall value and strength of the web is severely compromised.

As leaders we have a web too. It isn’t exactly like a spider’s web, but all the pieces of this web are important. And if any are missing or weak, the whole web is weak. In our case, the web silently and perhaps unknowingly impacts everything about our success as a leader.

A web of expectations

Expectations are powerful things, and most leaders would recognize that. What most don’t realize is how many different sets of expectations exist, and how important understanding and securing each set is to their results.

When you stop to think about it, expectations form quite a web, with multiple connections. There are:

  • Expectations your boss has of you.
  • Expectations you have of your boss.
  • Expectations your organization has of you.
  • Expectations you have of your organization.
  • Expectations your team (and members of it) have of you.
  • Expectations you have of your team.
  • Expectations you have of yourself.

The list grows, based on your particular situation; in fact they exist for any group or individuals that you work with, interact with and serve.  Think other Departments, regions, peers, Customers and vendors just to get started.

Complex, to be sure.

And like the spider’s handiwork, this web is incredibly strong when well built, and nearly worthless when it isn’t.

How can we meet expectations if we don’t know what they are?

Here is a great diagnostic. Think about your relative success and comfort with any of the relationships described above.  If you grade any less than an A, ask yourself this question:  Do we have mutually understood and agreed to expectations?  If not, that probably accounts for a large part of your gap.

You can strengthen your web and boost your results when you build mutually agreed upon and understood expectations in every case.

How can we reach agreement? 

Ask people their expectations. Don’t be surprised if they don’t have an immediate answer (most people haven’t really given it thought and certainly aren’t used to being asked).

Be patient if they don’t have an immediate answer, or don’t answer at all.  You know that this is useful and advantageous for both parties, even if they resist at the start.

Share your expectations too. Make sure you know what they are and share them humbly and openly.

Clarify and build an understanding and agreement. This means a conversation.

Write down your expectations. This provides clarity and gives everyone a clear picture of success.

These steps will work directly with other people, and metaphorically when thinking about organizational expectations.

These simple steps done with every important group or person you interact with will be well worth the investment you make in it. As you build this web of expectations you are building a foundation for better relationships, higher trust and great success.

Register your leadership team for the next Bud to Boss workshop where they can learn how to build stronger, more interconnected teams.

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