How do you deal with unmet, unspoken expectations?
As previously posted, we know that we operate with unspoken expectations. Typically they go unspoken for a while until someone has the courage to confront. Unfortunately, at that point the opportunity for dialogue is passed and this no longer a conversation but it’s a confrontation. How do you handle this as a leader? Here’s the practice that I use when I realize someone is confronting me with an unmet but unspoken expectation.
- Genuinely apologize – you failed to do your job in their eyes. Regardless of your intention, you’ve let someone down.
- Don’t go to immediate defense. Covey writes, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. At this point, defending your motives just sound like excuses and reinforces that the topic at hand wasn’t a priority for you.
- Clarify what you’re hearing to be the expectation
- Play out a possible scenario, “If I see this again, and did this . . . will this help/serve you?”
- Thank them for feedback – reinforce your own need for growth and feedback.
- Emphasize the importance of the relationship and your care for them.
- Speak to your leadership team about it – confirm that this is an expectation and how they can help you identify unmet unspoken There’s nothing worse than being held accountable for something you didn’t know you were being asked to do.
Live and lead with transparency with your leadership team to help them understand that you’re wanting to receive feedback, address areas of growth, but also ensure that they are aware of what you’re being asked to do. A healthy leadership team will help you establish boundaries and protect you from unspoken expectations.
A great resource for reference is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and team. You can get it here.