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When we inhabit the world of expectations, we assume others to live up to our own imaginary standards, without their consent.

For example, I may expect: 

  • my spouse to make me happy. 
  • my kids to always do as I say and not what I do. 
  • my team to work 80 hours per week and still make it fresh and on time for every meeting. 

Expectations vs. Agreements 

Expectations live in our heads. They deflect responsibility and blame onto others. They are like time bombs of disappointment waiting to go off.   

Expectations create anxiety and resentment in others. Whereas agreements are motivating, collaborative, and more likely to get the results. 

Managers: How to Shift from Expectations to Agreements

Imagine, a leadership group expects their team to build, test and launch a new product within a very short time frame so they can feature it in a trade show they have just opted in to.  

There’s a lot of work to be done and not much time to turn it around in. 

In Scenario 1 – Expectations:  This is communicated as a top-down directive, and creates pressure, resentment, and fall-out when the team cannot deliver.  

In Scenario 2 – Agreement: The team leader shares “We need you to launch this product by the end of this quarter” to which the manager replies “That won’t be possible as we don’t have the headcount at the moment. If, however, you give me one more hire, I can get it done for you.” 

Which scenario would you rather be part of? 

When you move from expectations to agreements, you work with reality, and not against it. 

Agreements are co-authored, and consider both parties’ wishes, abilities, and realities.  

Furthermore, when people enter agreements, they give their word, and so tend to keep it. And if they can’t, they are more likely to work with you collaboratively to make it happen. 

Let me share with you 7 steps to manage your own expectations. 

We are often the hardest with the expectations that we put upon ourselves, most of the time without being fully aware of it. 

Here’s an exercise to help you manage your own expectations, so you can focus your time, effort, and attention more productively. 

  1. List out the key roles that you play; e.g. leader, team member, friend, parent, child, friend, etc.  
  2. Next to each, list out the key expectations you have of yourself in each of these roles. 
  3. Now, list out expectations you feel others have of you in each of these roles.  
  4. Then review your list. What comes up for you? What conflicts and synergies can you notice? 
  5. Now make conscious and empowered choices. What expectations do you want to let go of? What expectations do you want to turn into agreements? 
  6. Then ask what can I do to make this happen? By when?  
  7. Make a firm commitment and put it into action. 
Managers: How to Shift from Expectations to Agreements

Team Agreements: From Frustration to Collaboration 

You can also do this exercise but tweaked it for team expectations and agreements. 

  • Create a list of the key categories that are important in the successful delivery of your business e.g. teamwork, timeliness, effectiveness, responsiveness, output, etc. 
  • List out the expectations you have of your team under each of these categories. 
  • Get them to do the same for you. 
  • Then share it with each other and follow steps 4 onwards above. 

When we take the time to list out the expectations we have of ourselves and others in our various roles and endeavours, we are able to notice competing expectations. We get to create choices around what we agree to, and what we let go of.  

The benefits of this are multiple: 

  • less anxiety, stress, and disappointment  
  • better use of our time, energy, and focus 
  • stronger relationships through collaboration, not frustration. 

Add these all together—and you get a happier team, and better results.  

*Sub-note: The initial expectations vs agreements are inspired by Steve Chandler’s work in this area. This account is my own take on how to implement it. 

This guest blog is written by Georgina Halabi, a Certified Performance & Wellbeing Coach. Georgina helps highly motivated, self-aware professionals to achieve peak performance and well-being – not one at the expense of the other.  

Using a unique blend of whole-brain coaching that incorporates neuroscience, positive intelligence, NLP, and visualisation techniques, Georgina works to resolve and align conflicting internal tensions that hinder personal and professional growth, creating the space to focus talent and energy where it most counts. 

You can find out more about her on her website www.georginahalabi.com and book in a free, no-obligation coaching trial session through this link https://georginahalabi.youcanbook.me or get in touch through her LinkedIn account.