Skip to content
Ido on GitHubIdo on Twitter

Managers Should Focus More On Setting Expectations

When I was preparing to hire our first team members at, our head of people, then a managerial consultant, gave me a tip that became the cornerstone of my management approach: always set expectations.

Setting expectations involves agreeing on the rules and guidelines for a relationship, project, or any other collaborative effort. Here are a few examples:

  • As a manager, I expect my reports to be transparent.
  • As a project manager, I expect the team to meet tight deadlines.
  • As a team member, I expect my colleagues to support and guide me when necessary.
  • I expect my manager to help me reach my professional goals.

Different stakeholders have different expectations in various scenarios. Setting expectations is not a one-time event; it happens frequently. I usually set expectations when onboarding new members, starting a project, or when my expectations change.

This practice is crucial because it aligns both sides, reducing friction and frustration. Everything is on the table, with nothing implicit or left unknown. As a manager, you can use these expectations as points for improvement or praise during feedback sessions and 1-1s. Expectations are also vital to context building, contributing to better decision-making and team performance.

When setting expectations, be clear and explicit. Assume the other side has a different context and assumptions. For instance, instead of saying, "I expect you to finish this project quickly," say, "I expect you to finish this project within a week." The first may lead to a longer project than expected, while the latter provides a clear timeframe, prompting discussion if it needs to be more feasible.

Always ask for acknowledgment to ensure your expectations are understood. This step is crucial to avoid miscommunication and frustration. Revisit expectations as necessary. Situations evolve, context changes, and so should the expectations. Regular check-ins help ensure that all parties remain aligned and adjustments are addressed. This continuous alignment ultimately leads to greater efficiency and satisfaction.

If you haven't done it yet, focus your next 1-1s on setting expectations. Ensure they align with your goals, prepare thoroughly, and be explicit. Validate the other side's understanding, and enjoy a much smoother ride.

Let's keep the discussion goingJoin my squad