The importance of having realistic targets

Joanna Swash urges bosses to reassess expectations in all aspects of their lives

The importance of having realistic targets

Setting and managing expectations is the key to organisational success. It is a principal role of any leader. Managing expectations is a life skill that extends beyond the business world. Evaluating your management techniques, and striving to improve them, can benefit both your business and personal life. 

With a new season upon us, this is the perfect time to take a step back and reconsider how to better manage expectations in all aspects of our lives. In this article, I’ll discuss the importance of managing expectations, while providing tips for improving your management techniques.

Setting expectations is good for business

Setting and managing clear expectations is a basic tenet to success. And the word that makes all the difference is ‘clear’. 

Expectations are what you build guidelines and goals from. They empower your people but also give them ownership. Otherwise, how can they understand what is required of them? If you’ve failed to set clear, realistic expectations, you are not setting them up for success.

Clear expectations will create happy people, improved performance, connection to a purpose, and improved collaboration. If people understand what is expected of them, and how their own personal contribution fits into the overall plan, then they will have a stronger sense of connection and ultimately put more effort into their tasks. 

If they are happy, they will approach their work with more confidence and satisfaction. If everyone in the business understands what is expected of them, then everyone is aligned and working towards the same goal.

Communication is crucial in setting and managing expectations

Communication, communication, communication: That’s what it all comes down to. It is one of the most important building bricks of good leadership. Leaders need to be able to express ideas and share information with a whole host of audiences. Excellent communicators tend to be the best leaders.

For some it will come naturally, while others need to work at it. Either way, it is something that every leader will need to reflect on throughout their career. 

It’s so important to have a strong self-awareness. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and analyse your decisions and emotions. Only when you are aware of this information, can you interact successfully and effectively with others.

Tips for setting and managing expectations

Do not assume people know what is expected. This is where frustration can lead to wasted energies. Say it clearly and reinforce it in words that your audience will understand. As individuals we are unique, which means our perspectives are also all unique.

To lead, and to collaborate, we need to express our opinions and feelings in safety, and in terms that are clear to everyone involved. It is about using a language that removes any ambiguity. It means using short words to discuss tough topics and taking the time to ensure that expectations are understood. 

People should feel safe to ask questions, whether it is for reasons of clarity or even to disagree with expectations put upon them. Expectations, like communication, are a two-way process.

Managing expectations of ourselves

As a leader, it is often the case that we focus entirely on everyone else. What we must do is set aside time to apply the same principles to ourselves. We need to give our people all of the tools we can to make life and work a success. But we need to do the same for ourselves. We need to look in the mirror. 

It is all very well aiming for the stars, being bold, and trusting your gut, but this can lead to burnout. Not all days will run smoothly. And we need to acquire the skills to ensure that we are self-aware enough to acknowledge this. 

Be clear on your leadership style, as well as your strengths and weaknesses – and your purpose. Know who you are and what you stand for. This will help you to be authentic.

Set boundaries that will help you to define the difference between ‘realistic’ and ‘unrealistic’ expectations. This refers to both your expectations of others, as well as yourself. It will also serve as a reminder that you need to recharge. 

Find your tribe with like-minded leaders who can provide moral and practical support. Everyone has a story to share of lessons learned, and there is usually something new to be learned most days.

Never stop communicating and learning

Setting and managing clear expectations is a two-way street. It is something that should be developed from the very beginning. This is true of your first day as a chief executive, as well as that of a new employee.

Clear expectations need to be set and managed effectively. They also need to be reviewed, allowing everyone to evolve alongside the business. However, in this two-way street, it remains essential for leaders to take the lead.

This means looking at yourself first: It is about realising that there is a difference between what you want to do and what is actually possible. Analyse what is realistic and what is clearly unrealistic.

When you understand this yourself, you can then become a better leader and manager. Achieve this and you will find it easier to navigate the ever-changing business landscape of the future.

Joanna Knight
Joanna Knight

Share via
Copy link