Top 10 Ways to Set Clear Expectations

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Wait! You can’t read my mind?

Too often, that’s what managers inadvertently expect from their employees about job expectations. Rather than communicate and set clear expectations – the milestones against which employees are reviewed and rewarded — they assume their employees know what to do and how to do it. The result? Healthy teamwork, initiative and productivity take a back seat while hesitation, indecision and focusing on the wrong priorities reigns.

At PRC we strongly recommend that managers don’t rely on mental telepathy. Rather, they remove the ambiguity and get everyone on the same page and consistently and clearly set expectations. Check out the tips below on setting clear job and project employee expectations that will set standards for excellence, smart goals, and get you the results you’re looking for.

Top 10 Ways to Set Clear Expectations for Employees

  1. Start with a vision of what you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed.
  1. Discuss how you would define “excellent performance.” Answer the question, “what would success look like?” If you expect high levels of teamwork and collaboration, then describe what those employee expectations mean to you. Don’t assume they already know.
  1. Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step to follow. Your goal is to guide, not control. Letting individuals find their own route towards productive outcomes encourages them to use their strengths to their fullest potential.
  1. Tie the company goals of the department to each role. People want to know that their role, whether large or small, makes a difference. It’s important to clarify team expectations and team goals. Write clear job descriptions.
  1. Put expectations in writing! It provides you with simple documentation to refer back to communicate expectations if there is ever confusion on job responsibilities and team expectations for your employees.
  1. Stay on the sideline. You may be tempted to run in, play the game and make the touchdown for your employee. But if you do, no one learns a thing and your employee feels disempowered.
  1. Give feedback—and often! Annual performance reviews are too late to let staff members know if they are meeting your employee expectations. Schedule informal check-ins of employee performance weekly (up to monthly or quarterly for larger departments). Consistent feedback throughout the year sounds more like coaching by team leaders and less like micromanaging and supports a healthy work environment. The are important leadership skills for company leaders.
  1. Ask for team members’ feedback on how they think they are doing and how they think you and the management team is doing. The more two-way communication, the greater the clarity around the team expectations. Getting employee feedback is great for your growth as a leader. Work on goal setting and setting expectations together with team members. Help each other create clear expectations.
  1. Give positive reinforcement. Mention the things you like and you’ll get more of it. Be specific, highlight the impact and deliver it as close to the positive event as possible. Tie this in to employee career goals and job description. This helps build morale, lower employee turnover, and boost employee engagement.
  1. Don’t take it personally. When team members don’t meet performance expectations, look for solutions, not blame.

When it comes to setting expectations for employees, one key factor to consider is alignment. Aligning individual expectations with the broader organizational goals can be a game-changer. By ensuring that each team member understands how their role contributes to the department’s and the company’s success, you not only set clear employee expectations but also enhance motivation and engagement. Additionally, fostering open channels of communication, as previously mentioned, plays a pivotal role in this alignment process to set expectations.

By regularly seeking input from team members and involving them in shaping expectations, you create a culture of collaboration and shared ownership in meeting and exceeding goals. Ultimately, it’s this alignment and collaboration that will drive productivity, employee satisfaction, and the achievement of your organization’s mission. So, remember to set expectations early, communicate them clearly with staff members, and align them with your team’s and company’s overarching objectives for the best results.

We specialize in providing practical tools that business leaders can use immediately to set consistent and clear performance expectations and provide ongoing feedback. View our list of our most popular leadership training topics to give your leaders the tools on setting expectations.

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