Are Your Assumptions Getting in the Way of Seeing the Results You Want?

Few things are more frustrating than delegating work and watching it get done differently from how you’d asked.

In fact, it’s not only frustrating for you — it can be frustrating (and defeating) for the person you’ve delegated to as well. No one likes missing the mark, or having their work fall short of the results that were hoped for.

But instead of reaching for the common phrase, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” consider this:

Are you assuming things will get done the way you want? Or are you setting clear expectations to make sure they will?

Most people make assumptions that others know what to do. It’s a common and easy mistake to make.

But without setting clear, detailed expectations, it’s likely the results will fall short.

Here are two strategies to fix that:

Strategy #1: Pay attention to your “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”

The next time you’re disappointed in the performance or behavior of a team member, analyze what it is they should or shouldn’t be doing.

You may be thinking something like:

“They should be sending me their work with ample time to review it before the meeting.”

“They shouldn’t be prioritizing non-urgent tasks above this deadline-driven assignment.”

“They should be speaking up in meetings.”

All of your “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” are clues there is an unvoiced expectation that needs to be expressed to your team member.


Strategy #2: Define your expectations

Unless we’ve defined exactly what we need a team member to do, it’s nearly impossible for them to execute in the way we’d like.

For example, you might be thinking, “They should be sending me their work with ample time to review it before the meeting,” but you’ve never defined for your team member what “ample time” means.

The more specific and detailed the information is that you give, the more likely they’ll be to hit the target.

Clearly defining your expectations might sound like this:

“When you send me your work, please give me at least 24 hours to review it before the meeting.”

“The deadline-driven assignments need to be worked on before any additional assignments.”

“You have really great ideas. My expectation is that you share your thoughts, ideas, and questions in every one of our meetings.”

By employing these two simple strategies, the chances are great that you’ll see the shift from assuming things will get done the way you want — to fully believing they will.


Beth Racine joined CRN in 2013. As an Instructional Designer, Product Developer, and Facilitator, she takes effective, proven strategies and turns them into practical application. She enjoys working with people who are committed to growth and self-awareness.

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