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The "Why" In Setting Expectations

When setting expectations, most managers understand the Who, What, and When. But I often get a few quizzical looks when I stress the Why. The first three parts are the minimum, the Why adds the real value.

First, the "Why" is when you let the individual know the purpose or use of the deliverable. For example, if you ask for data, you would say how you will use it and who will see it. This lets the employee figure out the best way to finish the task for them. This autonomy - of the How - is critical to engagement and avoiding the dreaded micromanagement.

Second, the "Why" enables the employee to reason through the process so they don't have to ask you a ton of questions and can even add value to the process. For example, when I mention I need data for a meeting, the individual may put that together, but then include a few more things they thought could be beneficial.

Third, the "why" starts to help the employee understand the bigger picture. For example, that data that is being presented to the management team - the employee might realize that is important and come up with ways to improve it. Or maybe a way to get the data faster so that reports can be more efficient and effective. The "why" exposes them to things outside their scope, whether you realize it or not.

Make sure you explain the "Why" when setting expectations. It doesn't have to be a deep conversation, but don't be surprised if it becomes one somewhere down the road. When it does, pat yourself on the back because you've taken a huge step towards developing a high-performing team.

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