About a year ago, my wife Linda and I got a tandem bike.  We love to go tooling around the neighborhood in the evenings and we typically get waves and cheers from the people we pass by.  I think it’s been a long time since they have seen people on a tandem bike, and they are probably impressed that we are not fighting.

Riding a tandem bike takes trust, teamwork, and patience.  Communication is also high on the list because while I may see a bump coming up, Linda’s view is blocked by back and head, so I learned quickly to call out the upcoming obstacles.

tandem-bikeOne area where there has been some confusion is around the kickstand.  I think it’s because we both had expectations about how this particular function should be handled, but neither of us thought WE were the ones handling it! It wasn’t until we heard it scraping along the road that we knew someone had missed something.

Here’s where the expectations come in, and I think they are both legit.

Linda’s expectation was based responsibility.  I take care of the bike.  I do the “pre-flight checks” to make sure it’s ready to go and bring it around front when it’s time to ride.  Naturally, putting up the kickstand would be part of that routine.

My expectation was based on location.  Linda rides in the back, which is where the kickstand is.  When I ride my non-tandem bike alone, I usually get on the bike and as I push off, I kick up the kickstand with my foot.  Only natural to think that would happen here with whoever was closest to the kickstand.

Here’s the trouble (and the link to leadership in case you were wondering) – we both had differing expectations that we didn’t discuss prior to taking off for a ride.  Only when something went wrong did we finally divulge that indeed we thought the other person should have done it.  How many misunderstandings have happened in the world – in YOUR world – where you thought expectations were clear when they really weren’t?

In my experience, many of the behavioral issues leaders experience stem from unclear or non-existent expectations. A common first step to getting a team or individual back on track to establish, or re-establish the expected behaviors and outcomes.

If you take the attitude that you can’t over-communicate your expectations, you’ll probably find that you sound like a broken record to yourself (because you are hearing it all the time), but also that your teams finally have a better understanding of truly what they are supposed to be doing.

In case you were wondering, we will both be checking the kickstand next time.

Give me your two cents!

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