Establishing Expectations


“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
–Jack & Gary Kinder

Recently I had a conversation with some colleagues about recent experiences on teams.  Through the course of the conversation we talked about what worked well, and not so well, from our perspectives regarding individual contributors and leaders.  As we were talking, a picture formed in my head about a common theme underlying many of the comments: “this worked well because we established an expectation concerning…” or “that situation could have been better if the leader would have stated an expectation about…”.  As I look forward to my next assignment in leading a team, I wonder: how should establishing expectations fit into the picture?

I see three ways to establish expectations early, and that by doing so can start a team on the right foot.

  1. The Boss’s Expectations. I’ve written about this before, yet it bears repeating.  As leader of a team, one of my roles is to “lead up” by soliciting the expectations of the management above me.  This takes the form of asking my boss for directions, ask how he wants to be kept in the loop, and put myself in his shoes.  Understanding the boss’s expectations can help provide needed context for the team to address the remaining items.
  2. My Expectations as Leader. As a step in building a high performance team, I can set my expectations at the outset.  In addition to defining the skills, aptitude, and instincts needed on the team, I can set the tone for the team up front by establishing my standards of performance. Doing so can be a useful step in ensuring I get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off, early.
  3. Mutual Expectations in the Team Charter. A team charter defines the purpose of the team, expected outcomes (see #1, above), and how the team will work together.  It’s created by the team at the outset and builds a shared understanding of why the team exists and what it is trying to accomplish.  One of the key elements of the team charter is mutual expectations, which defines the ground rules on how the team members will interact, collaborate, support each other, and give feedback.  Especially with a new team, establishing mutual expectations up front can build the culture of the team in a purposeful way.

By establishing the boss’s expectations, my expectations as leader, and mutual expectations of the team members, we can become a functional team much more quickly and deliver outstanding results faster.

What have I missed?  What would you add to the list?

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Establishing Expectations