Setting Expectations

Written by Peggy L. McNamara

One of the key components to effective leadership is setting expectations for those who follow you. You’ve heard it before; people will, most of the time, rise to a level of performance/behavior that is set for them.  In that light, what expectation are you setting?

Some key points to consider:

  • Does your team hear you cast your expectations on a regular basis? Don’t leave this for the annual meeting or retreat that you hold.  Make sure that your vision and expectations are repeatedly stated throughout your tenure.
  • Are you holding people accountable to the behavior expectations that you have set? It won’t do any good to state your expectations and then not follow through with your team if an individual is not playing along. Dissension can be fatal. It is important that you allow the people that work with you freedom to express their opinions and beliefs without any negative ramifications.

However, it is equally important to realize that not everyone is going to agree with every decision that you make. Let them know that you realize that. And, when it does take place, you need to help your team understand the why’s behind the decision and ask for their respect with it.

Holding people accountable to behavior is not dictatorship; that went out some time ago.  And, it also does not mean that you are to go around and clean up every single statement that is made that is petty in nature.  This is about creating one-on-one face time, when needed, with the influential people in your team. You know who they are. Every group has at least one, if not more; that individual who is either publicly vocal about her woes with you or works quietly behind-the-scenes to create doubts and frustrations. Don’t tolerate it.  Gracefully confront the issue. Repeatedly state the clear value that she has to your team. Remind her how much you need her assistance but be firm with your statement of expected behavior.

Are you the calm-in-the-storm? Chaos is part of every business these days.  The key is for you to create a sense of organized chaos in your organization versus heavy dysfunction.  Your team needs strong guidance during turbulent times and, whether you want to accept it or not, turbulence is here, and has been for quite some time and I’m not sure how quickly that will dissipate, if ever. Help your people understand the organization’s priorities as well as reminding them how far you’ve come. Share the history as well as the future.  Tell stories of successful ventures and what has been learned from the perceived failings. Remind them that we’re in this together and can get through it.  Show some vulnerability while also sharing your dreams for the future.  Let your team hear the passion and confidence in your voice. Allow emotions to be shared.

True leaders have lots of demands on them and yet, that is usually why they are in that role.  Without demands, boredom could set in and there is nothing worse than a driven leader feeling bored or unchallenged.  Set your expectations. Set them high…not so high that they are impractical or unreachable but just high enough so your team has to stretch a bit to get there. Stretching is good; as long as it is handled with courage and grace.

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