Managing Expectations

Simple Tips for Leaders…

Setting expectations is something we experience early on—as a child we were expected to clean our room before we could go out and play; as students we were expected to complete our homework before we could go to the weekly sporting event; as employees we have goals we create or are created for us and are expected to meet our goals for performance rewards and recognition; as leaders we learn to manage by objectives and set clear goals and measures.

Why Do We Set Expectations?

Each of us needs to have directionality in our lives to help us prioritize our work, make decisions and focus on information most critical to reaching outcomes.  Remember—our brains crave certainty! A leader must set and communicate clear expectations to help signal to employees what behaviors and outcomes are needed to achieve results.

But how do we manage expectations when things are uncertain?  Developing and monitoring goals is one tool to help with setting expectations. Goals can be long-range — or more immediate—like delivering a “best in class” company in 2018.  Setting goals with clear measures and having on-going discussions around the progress of these goals helps set and reinforce employee expectations on how to prioritize work.

Take a moment to reflect on the work you and your team are focused on…

  • What problems are your team trying to solve?
  • How does your team consider the customer’s needs in prioritizing work?
  • Do you and your team have clear understanding of what the problems are which need to be focused on and how to address them?

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have all of the answers; however, leading during uncertainty does mean you help lead your team to think and act differently.  Managing expectations helps build this capability.

Leader Activity: Consider discussing these questions at a staff meeting

  • What do our customers need in the next 12-months?
  • What work is required to address the needs of our customers?
  • How can we improve efficiency of our work, as well as ensure quality work to drive operational excellence?

Review the Ideas Generated

  1. Determine the priority of the work and how to measure success
  2. Identify specific actions each employee should focus on to deliver the work
  3. Monitor and reward success and coach your employees if expectations are not being met

Documenting goals and updating progress in the Performance Management system will ensure you are able to focus development discussions and performance discussions throughout the year—making the end of year process more efficient and effective.  Setting goals and expectations isn’t just a “nice to have” — it is a critical part of leadership routines.

Things to Consider

  • What are you doing to provide clarity and focus on expectations?
  • How are you helping yourself and others to reduce the threat of uncertainty?
  • What steps are you taking to foster engagement and retention of employees?


For More Information about the Authors: Rhonda L. Frith-Lyons & Tracy Richardson












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