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Want to Decrease Stress? Set Expectations

three steps to getting your team – at home or at work – pulling in the same direction

I was feeling particularly frustrated one day after racing to make dinner and making sure the dog wasn’t counter-surfing and eating said dinner … and then realizing that the kids had eaten and raced off to do other things, all before I had eaten a bite.

It probably should also be noted that I get fiercely hangry, which doesn’t always help these situations.

However, as grateful as I am for all the extra family time we’ve had in the past year, I had finally had enough.

I was feeling overworked and underappreciated. And started seeing red. And I lost my cool.

“I AM NOT THE MAID,” I told the girls. “You need to help me clean this up.”
To which I received a healthy amount of 8-year-old and 6-year-old indignation and sass. This resulted in a stalemate in which no one was happy and everyone was grumpy.

After the dust had settled a bit, it occurred to me that I set MYSELF up for this disaster – unintentionally, of course.

As the girls have gotten older and capable of helping out more around the house, I started assigning them responsibilities in my head without actually telling them that my expectations had changed.


Whether you are managing your team at home – or at work – and people are routinely disappointing you, it’s important to ask two questions:

• Have you clearly set expectations for others?

• And articulated these expectations clearly?

Clearly articulating what you want and need from your team – your kids, your partner, your colleagues, your clients – sets you BOTH up for success.

Without going too far into the academic weeds here, giving clear expectations and directions are a key component of motivating others.

Which makes sense, right? The clearer I am about what you (kids, manager, partner, etc.) want and need from me, the easier it is for me to comply and meet your expectations.


But if setting expectations is “so easy,” why don’t more people do it?

It takes time and – more importantly – clear intentions to set expectations for others. In order to do a good job, you YOURSELF have to be clear about what you want and need from others.

Which isn’t always all that easy, is it?

Never fear, we’ve got you covered! Here’s how to set expectations for others in three steps:

STEP 1: Pick ONE issue to work on at a time.

Think about what makes you crazy – the super frustrating and irritating thing that makes you want to run screaming from the building daily.

Yep, that’s the one. For example, when you walk into the room, what is the first thing that you notice is done or not done? How does it make you feel?

Think about: how exactly and specifically does this situation need to be different so that you won’t have such an adverse reaction? This leads us to …

STEP 2: Make a list.

Grab a pen and paper, open a note on your phone or computer. Write down HOW you want things to be different. Be as specific as possible.

For example, say when you walk into the kitchen, you expect the sink and counter to be clear. If these things are not done, you start seeing red (and everyone in the house magically disappears …)

Your kids don’t want to deal with you when you’re pissed! Help them help you.

Get REAL specific. What exactly needs to be done? Dishes in dishwasher? Crumbs swept off with a washcloth (into the trash, not the floor). What about milk cups? And the jar of peanut butter?

Yes, it takes time and energy to write all of this down … and you might feel that you “don’t have the time” to write it down.

However, it’s a LOT easier for people to comply with your request(s) when it’s in writing. (Read: They can go back to the list rather than ask you!) I promise you, this will be worth your time in the end!

STEP 3: Share your written expectations with others.

Remember to strive to have this conversation in a calm manner. Don’t focus on the past: No one can change what has happened. Instead, focus on the future. What can be changed moving forward to help everyone?

Ask for input and help. Remind your family or team that you appreciate their expertise and that you can’t do this all by yourself.

Tell your family/team that they make a difference. Feeling valued is a huge part of getting buy-in!

We went so far as to make a “family team agreement” that clearly states all the expectations, as well as rewards for meeting the expectations. (To download a copy, go to

Remember that change is NOT EASY. Your family might resist this kind of clear expectations setting at first. Heck, YOU might resist this at first.

Before you know it, you’ll have MORE TIME AND ENERGY to devote to expanding, growing, and creating … rather than being stuck in the same rut you’ve been in for weeks/months/years.

Take a deep breathe. You’re worth it. Your family is worth it. Take it one step at a time. YOU’VE GOT THIS!

Emily Elsner Twesme, DBA, is a mother of two and owner and operator of Bright Business Consulting in Eau Claire (

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