Get on the Same Page with Clear Expectations

advice business success clarity delegation expectations Oct 03, 2023

When someone tells you that they need something done “ASAP” or “by yesterday,” what does that mean to you? Is that a clear timeline for you to follow, or does it leave you guessing and panicking about how you will get the task done in time for when your boss/leader wants it?

When you are delegating something to another person, it is important to set clear expectations for them. There are three questions that will set you up for success when establishing an expectation: 1). What is it that you want? 2). When, specifically, do you want it by? And 3). How will you measure it?

Avoid using generic terms like “as soon as possible” so that you and the other person are on the same page. If you would be confused about it, they probably will be too. Be specific and clear about what you expect of them, and allow time for them to ask questions. Don’t just say something really fast and then walk away. Effective communication is a two-way street.

Another way to look at setting clear expectations is to think about how you would describe to a 5-year-old what they are supposed to do. If you hand them a coloring page and tell them to color it, you can’t judge the finished product on anything other than if they put color on the page. However, if you tell them to try to color in the lines and to use at least three different crayons, then you have measurements for success. If you want it done that day, you would need to tell them that. This may be a trivial example, but too often in business we make assumptions that others will just know what we want from them without ever clarifying what it is that we actually want.

Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” I challenge you to fully understand what it is that you want, when you want it, and how you intend to measure something before you delegate it to another person.


-Meghan Slaughter

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