How to Establish Clear Expectations So Everyone Succeeds

In our last few articles, we wrote about the latest insights on how to better manage the feeling of overwhelm. One of the tips we provided was the importance of setting proper expectations as a leader to ensure you are laying the foundation of success for both yourself and your people. This week, we decided to dive deeper into the topic, so let’s jump in. 

Setting and managing expectations is essential to a smooth-running organization. In fact, the failure to set clear expectations can lead to disappointment, underperforming, missing deadlines, and a host of other issues that can sap productivity and demotivate employees.

Setting expectations the right way starts with clear and effective communication. If you do not communicate what you want or expect, how will anyone be able to meet your expectations? Expectations provide guidelines, goals, and the accountability necessary to keep things on track.

Setting Clear Expectations is Essential to the Delivery of Results

Providing clear and specific expectations will:

Empower employees — When employees know exactly what is expected of them, they will feel more at ease in their roles. They will get things done because they are not spending time in the ineffective world of ambiguity.

Improve teamwork — When everyone in the office understands what is expected of them, it creates alignment, and everyone feels like they are on the same page. With confusion removed from the equation, there can be a sense of camaraderie while everyone works toward common goals.

Align priorities — Employees who understand expectations also understand the “why” behind their work, and they have a stronger sense of how what they do affects others, so they can prioritize their assignments accordingly.

At the end of the day, setting and managing expectations clearly enhances your leadership and makes for a much healthier bottom line for your organization.

Effective Communication is the Key to Success

Leaders who struggle with communication may also struggle with expectation setting. As a result, they might become frustrated and dissatisfied when employees don’t deliver the expected performance or results.

Ongoing two-way communication is necessary to ensure alignment of expectations and to foster a common understanding between all parties involved. Let’s look at a few specific ways leaders can encourage open two-way communication and be more deliberate in establishing clear expectations with others.

#1 — Encourage Others to Ask Questions and Constructively Challenge Your Expectations

Sometimes we are moving through our meetings and discussions so quickly that we forget to pause and encourage others to ask us questions to provide clarity and establish a common understanding. To build on this, we also need to encourage others to constructively challenge our request/expectations if they do not make sense or if there is a better way to accomplish the same end goal.  

It is easy to be disappointed when someone doesn’t deliver according to your expectations, but I encourage you to ask yourself before you do – were you clear and specific, and did you allow them time to ask questions and clear up any confusion or assumptions?  

#2 — Don’t Assume Others Can Read Your Mind

Your understanding of your expectations is based on your perspective, which no one else shares. That is why it is so crucial to communicate even the most obvious expectations with enough detail so that others have what they need to do the job. Remember, too, that everyone on your team processes information differently, so getting to know their individual needs for receiving instructions is important to overall productivity and delivery of results.

#3 — Setting Expectations is a Never-Ending Process

Setting expectations is an ongoing and never-ending process and it should start prior to an individual accepting a position on your team or within your company. Job descriptions should include basic functions, requirements, qualifications, and skills. Outline expectations during the interview and hiring process, and once hired, keep that line of two-way communication open. Remember, communication should flow in all directions, and that goes double for expectations!

How Are You Setting Expectations with Others?

Do you struggle with setting and managing expectations? Are you frustrated with employees who never perform the way you expect them to? 

I am here to help you understand what it takes to set and manage expectations in a way that transforms your leadership and your organization. I know what it takes to bring leaders to the next level when it comes to communication, and I’d love to talk with you about how we can collaborate on solutions for your organization.

Feel free to send an email to or call me at 416-560-1806.

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