Setting Expectations

Setting Expectations

Setting expectations is a key responsibility of leaders and managers in all organizations. ” is responsibility includes setting the expectations for the organization as a whole, for departments within the organization, and for individuals within departments. Expectations must be clearly stated and shared using both written and oral communication.

Some expectations are measurable and time delimited, such as “complete product redesign by June 30”.  These are job or task expectations. Other expectations, those that are closely tied to organizational values, are more conceptual, such as Starbucks’s Five-Ways-of-Being (Be welcoming, Be genuine, Be considerate, Be knowledgeable, Be involved), which tell employees how to work with customers, each other, and management.

The intent of element 41—Set expectations—is more like the Starbucks example. These expectations are part of inspiring and leading. As a leader, you provide guidance on how to implement core values to reach strategic goals. Critical to getting your expectations met is modeling the behaviors you expect your employees to exemplify. Next, set expectations through formal and informal communication using lists, handouts, stories, and vignettes that show employees how your expectations play out in the real world. Finally, reward those who meet expectations, and correct those who do not.

Here are some strategies to successfully accomplish these two tasks:

Guidelines for Setting and Communicating Expectations:

  • Set realistic expectations based on judgment and data.
  • Tell people what you’re doing, what you expect to happen, and when you expect it to happen.
  • For more conceptual expectations, explain with stories and vignettes, not just words.
  • Consider and explain how you will measure compliance with expectations.
  • Tell people what you expect of them as workers and as corporate citizens.
  • Consider and explain how expectations build to strategic accomplishments.
  • Ask questions to make sure employees understand expectations.


You won’t always have time to write clearly develop SMART Goals for yourself and your employees.  However, if you learn the SMART goal method you can quickly apply its logic on the fly in any situation.



MindTools Article on Creating SMART Goals



In Chapter 9 of 20 in his 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, Carrot Creative social media agency CEO Mike Germano answers “How Are You Learning to Manage and Motivate Teams?” For Germano, managerial effectiveness as a leader comes through clear communication when setting expectations with his team. He makes sure his employees understand why their client or project is important and why they are the right person for the job. Mike Germano is co-founder and CEO of DUMBO Brooklyn-based social media agency Carrot Creative. Previously, Germano ran for and was elected to public office in Connecticut. He is a graduate of Quinnipiac University.


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