Are you puzzled when others do not meet your expectations? Earlier this week, some clients were talking about how difficult it is to get some people to meet their performance expectations. Several years ago, I was having a similar conversation with one of my coaches and mentors. After moaning out loud about the poor performance of my group, I muttered out loud “You would think they would know better by now.” He looked at me and asked “Have you actually told them what you want, or have you just hinted at it?”

The truth is, I had just hinted at it. I had not clearly let anyone know what I really wanted; and, with my mentor’s help, I began to see how often that happened in both my personal as well as in my professional life. As a result of that conversation, I found myself in a couple of programs called “Managing for Motivation” and “Interpersonal Managing Skills”. A quick google failed to bring up those programs, so I suppose that they have gone by the wayside. What has not gone away is the need for them.

There is a learnable skill called “Clarifying and Confirming” that can help you clearly communicate your expectations AND help you understand the expectations others have of you. This skill helps put the “seek first to understand and then to be understood” principle of highly effective people into practice.

To Better Understand:

  1. Assume you do not know what the other person wants.
  2. When the first impulse is to reject, ignore, or disagree with someone, take a deep breath and clarify what has been said by asking for additional information about (a) what was said and (b) why it was said. After receiving the new information, confirm your understanding of both (a) what and (b) why.
  3. Check to see if there are any special considerations that will affect outcomes. Ask questions like “Are there any other details I need to know before I begin?” “When do you want it?” “Is there any special process or procedure you want me to follow?” . . . . These may seem like foolish questions, but experience has taught me it is better to look foolish than to be foolish.

To Be Better Understood:

  1. Recognize that others cannot read your mind.
  2. State what you want, why you want it, when you want it, how you want it done.
  3. Ask if there are any questions left unanswered.
  4. Confirm your expectations and check back with people as appropriate to monitor their progress.

These are the basic steps that can help with this simple process. They can make a difference in the workplace and family harmony.

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