Being skilled at handling expectations is one of the most important competencies that a person must have in order to manage a transition successfully. It is surprising then that such an important event as filling a leadership role is most often the time when expectations are not clearly spelled out. If anything is explained to the new senior leader, executives often focus on the usual quantitative objectives, mentioning more sales, better variable gross margin, and lower costs as important expectations.
In order to avoid appearing insecure, new managers may forgo the chance to specify expectations, making misunderstanding inevitable. Many managers fail to ask about the simplest things, such as important milestones and the criteria for success in their position.
Employees have expectations for new leaders, as well. They often talk openly about their expectations for a new leader to solve old problems, but they are often less forthcoming in stating their personal expectations. In addition, colleagues have expectations of a new peer. They expect to be asked about their rules of the game, for the new leader not to present new ideas too quickly, and to avoid forging too close an alliance with superiors.
The expectations of employees, superiors, and colleagues are important as are the expectations of neighboring departments, employee representatives, and predecessors who have been promoted. It is important to explicitly and proactively ask about the expectations of key individuals and groups in the beginning of the transition.
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