Episode summary

Early Uber employee Tomás Campos circled the globe launching the service in new cities. Managing teams from different cultures, he discovered how essential it was to ask a simple, yet critical question: “What are your expectations of me as a manager?”

Listen in to hear Tomás share some of the painful consequences he faced before he learned to always ask – and why when he did ask, he says it was “one of the most interesting exercises I’ve ever gone through in my life.”

Why it matters

We often make assumptions about what others want based on our own experiences and therefore don’t take the time to explicitly ask our direct reports about their expectations of their role, the company, and, most importantly, us as managers. When we don’t ask, we miss out on an opportunity to truly understand what our direct reports care about, what they want, what makes them tick, and how we can best support them.

And when we make the wrong assumptions, often we find out the hard way—in the form of a conflict, underperformance, or even a resignation.

That’s why it always pays off to just find out directly: “What are your expectations of me as a manager?”

Putting it into action

  1. Find a time to sit down with your direct report or as part of your regular 1:1s, simply ask “What do you expect of me as your manager?” Don’t assume, even if you think you know.
  2. Translate their expectations into a plan. How will you work to meet them (or, if needed, be clear about what you can’t meet and what can be done instead)? For example, if they’re looking for more training, help them explore courses and programs. Or, if they expect you to help them get a promotion, work with them to identify milestones and metrics that will enable that.
  3. Measure and track the progress of the plan. Check in together so that they know you’re working to meet their expectations.
  4. Ask the question at least once a quarter. As someone’s career progresses or life circumstances evolve, their goals and expectations may change.
  5. Clear expectation setting works both ways: Be clear and consistent in communicating your expectations of them as well. And as you demonstrate that you’re working to meet their expectations, they’ll be more motivated to meet yours.

Other resources mentioned in this episode

The SCARF Model, developed by David Rock, outlines five core social domains that influence human behavior. It’s one framework that can help you think about how different people on your team might perceive or respond to threats and rewards differently.

  • Status: relative importance to others
  • Certainty: ability to anticipate/predict the future
  • Autonomy: sense of control over events
  • Relatedness: sense of safety with others
  • Fairness: perception of fair exchanges between people

To learn more, read David’s research paper on SCARF (PDF) or this summary from Mind Tools.

Share your insights & experiences

Have you ever discovered the hard way that your assumptions about a direct report’s expectations were wrong? Did you learn anything surprising when you asked directly about their expectations? Have you ever been asked this question yourself?

We‘d love to hear from you at [email protected]!

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