We have recently undertaken some significant home improvement works at the family home using a company that has won several awards and comes recommended by others.  I was incredibly excited when the work started and had a clear vision of how our lives would be improved once finished.

While the vision has eventually been realised, our experience was far poorer than it appeared it was for others and it was difficult to understand how this company had won the awards.  I was curious to understand the ‘why’ and went to my coaching practice for answers.  There, I quickly found the answers.

Managing and aligning expectations – the difference

With my individual and organisational clients, I talk about the difference between managing and aligning expectations.  Conventional leadership wisdom states that effective leaders are good at managing employee expectations which seem to be simple and are common sense, but in years gone by do not really take into account the new world.

You can no longer set expectations for your employees because they have their own clear and dynamic expectations.

Great leaders align expectations by knowing their audience and really understanding them. They look for where expectation gaps exist or where they may arise and then align expectations primarily through meaningful conversations.

Home improvement – the problem

It appears that the problem with our home improvement project was that we spent our time managing each other’s expectations (costs, timings etc..) rather than on more powerful conversations aligning: our view of a great customer experience, our values around how our home should be treated and our view of what should happen when problems arise.

It is worth reflecting that leadership is fundamentally about having great conversations and that a problem only ever really exists in the absence of the ‘right’ conversation.  So, think about how well you have aligned expectations the next time you have a problem with your team, within your organisation or indeed with your home improvement.