Are colleagues not fulfilling their commitments to you? Are you struggling to fulfill your commitments to them? Can you imagine having a different experience in your working relationships—one in which expectations are met and commitments are fulfilled? This is possible.
In the race to coordinate and collaborate to achieve our shared goals, we often overlook the opportunity to discuss the three areas that help us create alignment in our working relationships. Our expectations of each other, our specific roles, and our mutual commitments. By clarifying these, we can efficiently and effectively execute together.
Aligning on Expectations
We bring our expectations of each other to any relationship. Expectations based on our history, our roles and goals, and our understanding of what we’re undertaking together.
Leaders frequently ask me for tools—tools to help them communicate more effectively, to motivate people, and to lead better. The tone of this request is as if they’ve been looking unsuccessfully for a long time for a “magic wand” that will make all the challenges of working relationships go away.
The more complex the problem, the simpler the solution.
I share with leaders that the only tool they have available to them is their next conversation. Gratefully, their next conversation is the only thing they need. Unfortunately, in our daily interactions we often talk around what we need to talk about or we avoid it altogether. I can think of countless examples where leaders have shared with me that they’ve spent a lot of time speculating about a person’s frustrations, desires, and concerns—and then avoided addressing them directly in conversations with that individual.
Unmet expectations lead to disappointments and decaying trust.
There is always a conversation available to you that can make the difference: it’s a conversation for relationship. And conversations for relationship are most productive and rewarding when they happen with the person you want to achieve alignment with—not with someone else and not with ourselves.
We can initiate this conversation to explore what we expect of each other using questions such as:
- “What do we expect of you in this situation?”
- “What do we expect of me?”
- “What are we both speculating or guessing about?”
- “What may we need from each other that we have yet to ask for?”
- “Where do we find ourselves hesitating to speak with each other?”
- “What about our relationship has us second-guessing ourselves?”
Either party in a working relationship—even a hierarchical one—can initiate these conversations. These potentially missing conversations are the tools we’ve been looking for.
More on aligning on roles next month…