Clear Expectations Are Like Oxygen For Your Team

fighter pilot in cockpit 2

How To Create & Communicate Expectations That Fuel Team Performance. Pt 1.

A recent workplace poll by Gallup of companies around the world found that only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work.


This makes it incredibly hard for them to meet or even succeed their performance goals if they don’t know what they are!  


And this in turn makes it difficult for the company to succeed!  


They might know the overall vision of the company is to expand into Asia by 2028, but what does it mean for them?  

How does it translate into everyday activities?

What will determine their contribution to the company to achieve this?  


Not having clear performance expectations is like trying to find your way to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night at a friend’s house – groping and feeling your way through unfamiliar territory, hoping you’ll make it to the end goal without stumbling over or crashing into too many things along the way.


William Wallace, was the legendary Scottish freedom fighter in the 1200s, and was made even more famous by his depiction in Mel Gibson’s movie, Braveheart.

In the scene of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, we see a vastly outnumbered Scottish army – the Scottish troops are assembled in the rolling, early morning mist, nervously calculating the odds of success and survival – should they run and live, or stay to fight and probably die?  The British troops present an imposing and impressive foe. Some start to turn and flee and it’s about then that William Wallace gives his impassioned speech:


“Yes. Fight and you may die. Run and you will live, at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance to come back here as young men, and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom?!”


William and his commanders then harnessed the loyalty and passion the speech evoked with a clever and well-communicated military plan – each division clearly knowing their part to play in crushing the English army. As the enemy progressed across the narrow Stirling bridge, the Scots waited until half of them had passed and then they killed the English as quickly as they could cross.  Then, when the English Cavalry were sent, the Scots Schiltron formations forced the infantry back into the advancing cavalry.  This charge, led by one of Wallace’s captains caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward and, under the massive weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned, giving the Scots a significant victory.

The Scots, though at an apparent disadvantage, triumphed.  Wallace emboldened the Scottish army with his vision for Scotland and then most importantly via his Captains, clearly gave each man the role they needed to play to achieve victory.  

He and his team gave their best and inspired the army to do the same with a clear vision and clear performance expectations. A powerful combination.


To give anything less than your very best as a leader is to not assume the responsibility of Leadership.  Can you imagine the result if William Wallace and his captains only gave 50% to the fight and poorly communicated their plans to their troops?!  For you to lead for growth, it will only be possible when you develop and communicate clear expectations for each member of your team.  It is like oxygen.  Essential.  And they can inspire legendary performances.


What are your expectations as a Leader?


What do you expect from those Leaders you have around you?


Do they know what you expect?


Clear expectations must be set clearly and be comprehensively communicated within a formal process.


Each team member must have a solid understanding of the performance standards required, and the strategies and tactics they need to help achieve this. It will not do to simply email your team members the expectations you have, or to mention them in a group meeting.  You and your key leaders must communicate your expectations one on one with each team member, allowing for questions, discussion and feedback.  


You must also set a formal time with each team member on a regular basis to track how they are going in achieving their performance expectations to establish accountability.  If you don’t inspect, you won’t build respect.


Do you have  a process for evaluation?


Do you have an accountability process?


Do you have a Communication Strategy that provides clarity in relation to individual team members’ roles and how they fit into the big picture?


Without this clarity, increasing accountability and responsibility when poor performance occurs is more difficult and it will reduce the chances of a winning performance.  


Communicating clear expectations as the leader to lead for growth requires the leader to communicate the vision, the strategy and the tactics which are critical components to ensure the team you lead is aligned and pulling in the same direction, focused on the right goal and the right vision.  Imagine if each man in the Scottish army was left to decide what they would do – chaos, confusion, disunity and defeat!  


Effective leaders that want to lead for growth, clearly communicate their expectations for the team’s performance and the expected outcomes.   This aligns each strategic area of the team with the overall mission and vision.  When developing goals for individual team members’ performance expectations, you must consider a number of things:


  1. The needs of the organisation
  2. The needs of the team
  3. The motivation of each individual
  4. The skill of each individual
  5. The different personalities of each individual  


If you don’t, your performance goals will be poorly developed and will lead only to demotivate and frustrate your team. To be successful,  your performance goals must inspire, motivate and keep team members focused on the big picture and this means ensuring you include the above-mentioned considerations in developing your expectations.

As the Leader, you must also ask a number of focused questions about each individual team member.  This is essential to give you crystal clear insight when developing empowering performance goals. The questions are:

  1. What are the key strengths of the individual?
  2. What are the key weaknesses of the individual?
  3. How can you utilise the strengths of an individual for the benefit of the team?
  4. What particular weaknesses require your leadership and development?


While most of us will never literally command an army where each move results in life or death of thousands, we do however have as Leaders, the immense responsibility to lead our teams to the best of our ability, to lead our teams to combat our own battles head on. We must lead by example, to inspire those we lead with an awe inspiring vision and then to empower them to achieve it by establishing clear performance expectations they are held accountable to. A powerful and winning combination.

Have you set clear expectations?

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I trust I will add value to your leadership journey.

If you’d like to receive a FREE e-copy of my book, “The Dream Is Everything”, click here.



Here are the links to the two other articles in this series:

Part 2

Part 3


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