Expectations Exercise

We talk so much about feedback, its importance and how all teams should incorporate it from the very beginning and practice it often. But is it possible to provide feedback on day 1 of a team or an activity? probably not. It’s often required that a reasonable amount of time passes before you can evaluate team members or come up with process improvement ideas.

While this is true, it is also true that the sooner we start with feedback the better. This exercise is perfect to set the stage and start working together to create this culture early on. Since we do not have facts, past events or behaviours to work with, we will work with the expected future.

During this exercise we will share each other’s expectations to the group. This is a nice way of influencing each other’s behaviour before the fact in a way that the team forms a perception of what’s desired and what is not within the group.

This is how it works

Prepare a template on a sheet of paper for each one of the participants. The paper will be divided in 3 sections. Give each team member a piece of paper. The lower half is blank. The top half is divided into two sections:

  • What my team mates can expect from me
  • What I expect from my team mates

For your convenience, I have uploaded a template ready to print 🙂

Ask each member to write their name at the top of the page.

Give some time and ask each participant to fill out the top half for themselves (what my team mates can expect from me and what I expect from my team mates). When everyone is finished, they pass their paper to the left and start reviewing the sheet that was passed to them. In the lower half they write what they personally expect from that person, sign it and pass it on. Don’t forget to add your name so the owner of the sheet knows who wrote each expectation.

When the papers made it around the room, take some time to review and share observations. Explore any surprises or mismatches and discuss about them. This exercise is very safe and, in general, can be used with groups of any level of maturity, it is actually good to use it with newly formed teams, it will help the team start off on a good foot, opening up to the rest of the team and improving their understanding towards others.

On the “What my team mates can expect from me” section, reserve a small space for an optional “What can you NOT expect from me” section (included in the downloadable template) and encourage the participants to share the one thing that is a no-go or just won’t come natural for them. This will set things clear from the start and will also be a way for the team members to spark some conversations about it and get to know each other better.

As usual, it is helpful to use a large space, where everyone feels comfortable and has their own little space where they can think and write their thoughts.

Most conflicts arise when two sides have different sets of expectation so let’s bang those right on the head before is too late!