Expectations: 101
January 24, 2024

Expectations: 101

Your ideas are fantastic. You’ve spent months planning out the next steps in your plan. But how do you share your expectations with your team?

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why setting expectations for your team is important 
  • How to set expectations
  • How to make your team meet those expectations

Setting expectations are important as a manager and here are some tips on how to do it and ensure your team meets them. 

Remember it’s never too early to set expectations 

As a manager you need to ensure your team members are engaged whilst also making sure their roles are being performed effectively. A great way to do this is to set clear expectations. The earlier you do this, the better. Why not even start at the job listing when hiring? Focus on what the job entails but avoid making one long task list. Make sure that the expectations outlined in the job description are aligned with your overall company strategy. 

Be clear when communicating them


Giving your team clear objectives will allow them to focus on the specific tasks they need to achieve. A study revealed that 83% of the population do not have goals; 14% have a plan in mind, but goals are unwritten; and 3% have goals written down. Interestingly the 14% who have goals are 10 times more successful than those without. 

Setting clear objectives will enable you to trust your teams’ ability to self-direct (and reduce your desire to micro-manage). If they can’t self-direct, it either means your expectations weren’t clear, or you need to talk about what additional support is needed (or is there a performance issue).

There’s a difference between goals and objectives. A goal is what you want to achieve; objectives are how you get there. You’ll have a much easier time setting expectations for objectives rather than goals. 

Use the SMART acronym to set objectives:

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Specific – Specificity allows you to target one area and ensure you’re not being too broad.

Measurable – You need to be able to quantify any gains made. How will you measure your success?

Achievable – Objectives must be realistic. Is the timeline realistic?

Relevant – Is your objective relevant to your team members’ job? Do they need anymore support or help from the broader team?

Time-bound – Set deadlines. Specify when you would like to see results. Don’t be too dogmatic about timelines however as there will sometimes be a need for flex.

Remember that it won’t always be possible for your expectations to be met. Your team are only human, and obstacles may appear along the way. Have regular 1:1’s to talk about these obstacles if they crop up and proffer additional support if needed. 

Write the expectations down 

65% of the population are visual learners. Visual learners retain the information they see far better than the information they hear. Writing down your expectations will help team members who are visual learners remember them better, but it will also give them something to refer to in the future. Another technique you can use to help your team set expectations is to not only write these expectations down but also get both of you to sign them. Be mindful that this approach may not work for everyone as it can come across as overly formal. Instead you can write them down during your 1:1 and keep them in a place accessible to both of you as a summary of what you agreed. 

Ensure everyone on the team is held accountable

The team need to understand why they must deliver what you’ve agreed. Give context. Avoid people working in isolated silos. Context provides meaning and in turn helps the team feel more engaged. For example, if the dev team doesn’t fix the bug as promised, your new app feature can’t launch. If it doesn’t launch then the marketing schedule isn’t able to roll out. This has an impact on PR and content. You need to impress upon the team member that everyone is playing a part in the team jigsaw. 

If someone fails to meet an agreed deadline, let them know you’re disappointed but also check in to see what the obstacle has been to meeting the expectation i.e. is there a personal reason?  Ensure you’re both clear on why the expectation wasn’t met and put a strategy in place to provide support and reassurance. 

The team member needs to walk away feeling motivated to do better next time.