Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce

Ensuring Clear Expectations

“High expectations are the key to everything.”

What to Know

Setting expectations is pretty straightforward, but also easily overlooked. We make assumptions. Others make assumptions. And before you know it, expectations are misaligned and conflict or poor performance bubbles to the surface. This item is an easy one to cross off the list, so take the time, make it a priority, and create a norm where others help you establish good expectations too.


Setting clear expectations is not a one-time deal. Because change is ongoing, revisit expectations on a regular basis. Every time the team grows or shrinks, individuals alter their goals, systems and processes shift, or organizational priorities change, be sure to check in to reestablish and/or align expectations.
What Managers Can Do

“After discussing an employee’s roles or responsibilities (i.e., with new hires or for ongoing work tasks), try asking, “”Based on what we’ve talked about, what’s your understanding of what you’ll be taking care of, and what you can count on me to do?”” Check for understanding about timing, resources, etc. Having someone verbalize expectations back to you ensures you’re all on the same page.

Be sure to document rules, policies, and norms that span across your team, department, or company and ensure employees know how to access that document. Revisit these documents periodically so people remember where to find them and keep them updated.

When an employee fails to meet your expectations, give him/her the benefit of the doubt and explore whether your expectations matched his/hers. Maybe there was a misunderstanding about the task, timing, or roles. Use the situation as a learning opportunity to clarify expectations going forward and encourage the employee to solicit feedback.

Check-in as priorities shift to make sure expectations are clear.

What Employees Can Do

“When talking with your manager or peers, check that your understanding of roles and responsibilities is the same as theirs. For example, sometimes big-picture expectations are verbalized by your supervisor, but he/she may forget to discuss the smaller, more informal parts of the job. Try using phrases like, “”When a situation like _____ arises, my understanding is that I should ______,”” or, “”Given _______, I would expect to do _______ and can count on you to do _______.””

Our managers are very busy people, which doesn’t make your questions or needs unimportant, but may make it difficult to get quick or thorough answers. Try prioritizing your requests of leaders; before going to your supervisor or other leaders, see if you can find an answer to your question elsewhere. Is the information already available in online or shared resources/materials? Can a peer help you? Once you know you need your manager’s input, make sure to ask, “”Is now is a good time for a question?”” so you have undivided attention.

Create SMART goals to document and ensure clear understanding of expectations (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-framed).”

What Leadership Can Do

“Ensure that strategic priorities are clear, focused, and well-communicated. Encourage mid-level leaders to align their goals with the goals of the organization.

For rules, policies, and norms that span across your organization, make sure to have a documented resource that employees can reference. Revisit these documents periodically so people remember where to find them and to assess when revisions/updates are necessary.

Require that positions have clear job descriptions. Successful companies also use competency models to demonstrate how knowledge, skills, and expectations are similar and different across various roles in the organization. Hire and develop your talent based on the outlined expectations.

Develop systems, practices, and procedures that align rewards with expectations. What evidence do you have that your practices are rewarding the right kinds of behaviors and are not rewarding wrong or unintended behaviors? “


Four Questions to Help you Manage Poor Performance

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Gallup Press

Crucial Accountability by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny