“Setting expectations” is the most common and frequent act among team members. The significance of the act is fairly high as it forms the basis of task execution and delegation. The underlying communication is not necessarily done in the most objective manner.
A very common behavior exuded by team leaders is an imperfect estimation of a project or task completion deadline. To the inquirer, the question seems straight-forward; but for the person, who is supposed to answer, it is not so.
It is more important to know when to ask the question than the content of the question itself.
While it is simple to align the deadlines as per initial plan, many times the intermediate deliveries during the project get affected by extraneous factors. The confidence of estimating the possible project deadline varies based on the manner in which the project is progressing at that time. For instance, a completion of a subtask might give confidence in completing the project in time but non-completion might introduce a doubt in the mind of the team leader. It is tough to remain objective throughout the course of the project as the status of the intermediate deliveries does tend to affect the forecast of the end deliverable.
It could, therefore, be worthwhile for the inquirer to spring this question in a near random fashion than when it is most expected. That way the responses could be more genuine.
Apart from these contextual aspects, the inquirer should also, ideally, doubt the response he/she receives.
In the possibility where such estimations could be incorrect; the managers need to consider the “base rate” of the team leader’s past estimations. While the team leader explicitly stated the estimations; the manager is in a better position to evaluate the implicit lag that could have been observed in the past projects. An appropriate adjustment (upwards or downwards) could be more realistic for planning purposes.
The above examples are but simplistic depiction of the daily scenarios in team settings. The fact, however, remains that there is more to the act of response than what is visible. It is imperative to consider implicitness in colleagues’ behavior while setting expectations. These sets of implicit behavior are hard to measure – specifically when the underlying act is more subjective in nature. For example, measuring implicit tendency of gender discrimination will always be harder than the next delivery deadline.
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