One of the most common complaints I hear from team members (and some leaders!) is, “I’m not really allowed to ask for more details on this. Right? Another version of this is, “When I ask for more information, I get in trouble. Even more worrisome and subtle is when a team member merely shrugs their shoulders – because these folks have probably given up trying to find out more (ugh!).

I knew there was a solution to this persistent problem, because I had spent my entire career helping teams overcome this common struggle to become higher-performing and more successful. That’s why I founded Facilitator on Fire: specifically to help teams and their leaders listen to each other, follow through on plans, and easily achieve goals together.

Now I’m going to let you in on a secret: all those confusing office communications – ever-changing priorities, frustrating meetings, hoarding information – it’s just not your fault. It’s the system. But it is a problem YOU can fix.

There is hope to communicate clearly and take action!

It is quite possible – and even likely – to go in to your office each day feeling confident you are working on the right projects and tasks, knowing you are on track to meet your deadlines and goals.

It is the incredible result of getting better at this one critical skill: setting expectations.

I’ll admit that setting expectations might not seem like a particularly sexy way to spend your time. But, if you want to become happier at work – not to mention become higher-performing and take your own massive action to reach goals and deadlines easily – then you can’t afford NOT to build expectation-setting skills.

There is a simple 3-step process to help you set clear expectations.

The full process is explained in this article. But, since I know you have goals, deadlines and reviews looming now, I’m going to give you you a head start. Step 1 of my simple 3-step process to set clear expectations for your own massive action is to slow down and notice where you are confused or missing some information.

I know it might sound too simple, but to be honest, most people ignore this step. We usually let our negative reactions to challenging situations at work interfere with our ability to see what is actually going on. So, before you can clarify anything, you must be intentional about noticing a gap.

Since I know Step 1 can be harder than it looks (trust me on this!), that’s all I’m going to detail for you in this article. In the next article, I’ll give you Steps 2 and 3. I promise, they are just as simple and straightforward as noticing the gap. In fact, they are pretty obvious once you learn them. You might even find yourself asking, “That’s so easy, why didn’t I think of it myself?

You didn’t think of these steps yourself because group dynamics are getting in the way! This is the key to why your workplace is setting you up to have communication struggles. If you are not expected to ask for clarifying information, why would you? If teams regularly hide information, intentionally or not, you’re likely to fall into that trap, too. And, when priorities change, often seemingly on a whim, you are taught to think it’s normal to spend precious time shuffling workloads, projects and plans around (yet again!) to keep up with moving targets.

I’m here to help you learn another way: a path that will lead you to support each other, have honest and productive meetings, and follow-through on plans to achieve goals together. Stay tuned, because I’m going to show you this path in Part 2 of this 3-part series!

Kay Coughlin is CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator on Fire. Kay founded the company on the belief that teams and their leaders deserve to take massive action to become higher-performing, more supportive and happier at work. She is well-known for business and leadership coaching as well as team alignment workshops.

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