Examples of providing expectations to your team

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I have written in the Manager by Design blog about the scourge of public feedback.  Public feedback is when managers try to solve performance problems by addressing their entire organization at once.  I make the case that doing this a) does not change the behavior of the one needing to change and b) could make worse the behavior of those who are already performing correctly. Public feedback is an example of a manager short cut and should be stopped.

So let’s look at — in a more positive manner — what a manager should focus on doing in a public setting: Setting expectations.

I would like to recommend to all of you managers out there to focus your announcements, all-team meetings and proclamations on the theme of setting expectations.  Doing so will help you down the course of leading, and the more you set expectations with your staff, the more likely they will actually do the things that you expect.   So let’s look at some of the things you can do to set expectations.

a) Start your presentations or announcements with “I’d like to provide you my expectations.”

Perhaps this is too simple of an idea to even document, but how often do you hear managers doing this?  Not enough in my estimation, so let’s increase this introductory statement on the part of managers.  By using the “I’d like to provide you my expectations” line, you are now forced to articulate what you do want.

In doing this, you can now embark on a project that allows you to identify the behaviors and values that you’d like to see on your team.  Let’s try a few!

“I’d like to provide you my expectations:”

–This will be an organization that utilizes teamwork to resolve issues

–I expect people on this team to come to me when you are experiencing issues that are preventing getting your work done

–I will make decisions based on whether it fits within our team strategy and helps us meet our team goals

–I expect us to utilize the already established team processes, and if someone on the team is not using an established process, then helpfully provide guidance on how to use the process

–If you identify a way to improve how something is done around here, I want to hear it

b) Make an attempt to identify your expectations for how you want your team to operate

I’ve provided a few examples above of what could constitute good team expectations.  Take some time to identify how you expect your team to perform.  Think about the behaviors of your top performers and what they do that make you think that they are a top performer.

An important aspect of this brainstorming exercise is that these expectations should be positively stated – the word “not” should be avoided.  Otherwise, your expectations become no more than a set of rules (no running, no spitting, no fighting) that, if followed, still don’t add up to creating a high performing team.  Of course, you can set the expectation that people will follow the rules outlined in the employee handbook (where many such rules are already documented) if you are looking for a baseline expectation to start with.

c) Be able to back up your expectations with examples of it actually working

When providing expectations, be able to identify someone who can actually do the things in the way you expect.  If you cannot think of concrete examples of someone or a team actually doing these things, then these expectations are not realistic.  For example, it is not realistic to expect the following, “I expect us to work conflict-free and gain full consensus for all decisions.”  That’s generally impossible — unless you can find someone who does this.  Should you examine this behavior, you’ll discover what it looks like and be able to describe the process in which this expectation is met.  Perhaps you’ll discover it wasn’t actually conflict free and it wasn’t actually full consensus.  Then you can modify what it is that you liked in the expectation-providing process.

d) Focus on how you expect to meet team goals

Goals are implied as expectations, and there is no a guarantee that you’ll meet all goals.  It’s a bit facile to say, “I expect you to meet your goals.”  And in fact, it may encourage subversion of other expectations as people try to cheat toward their goals (such as working overtime and not reporting it).  It is better to describe how you expect your team to meet its goals: “I expect our team to meet its goals via effective teamwork and using resources across the company effectively and ethically.”

If you are a manager, how often do you set your expectations of your staff?  Would your staff be able to articulate what those expectations are?

Related Articles:

Public feedback drives performance down and doesn’t count as performance management

How Public Feedback Can Make the Situation Worse

Four more reasons giving public feedback backfires

Five tips for reducing drama on your team

Criteria to generate a virtuous cycle for meetings

How to get out of what seem to be useless meetings

A leading indicator for team performance: Chart your meeting quality

More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team

Making it a mandatory meeting sabotages the meeting

The first step to getting out of the mandatory meeting cycle: Don’t call meetings if you were planning one-way communication

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


5 Responses to “Examples of providing expectations to your team”
  1. Pat says:

    The importance of stating expectations in positive, specific terms cannot be overemphasized. In my field, expectation stated using negatives are called ‘deadman’ rules–expectations a deadman can meet.

  2. I totally agree Pat! When providing expectations, they need to be stated in positive terms rather than “don’t do this, don’t do that.”


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