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Expectations: Emerging Leaders Series

Many areas of leadership can present roadblocks to success for new, emerging leaders as they tackle the challenge of moving from individual contributor roles into one where they are responsible for the effectiveness of a team. Whether that team includes many individuals or just a single person, the skills needed to lead them differ significantly from those required to lead oneself.

One of the most challenging things for any leader is learning to set clear expectations. As emerging leaders, this can be especially troublesome and fraught with obstacles. Often, we see these new leaders start by kicking things off with an overly strong, commanding-type leadership style where they bark orders and jump to writing people up when they don’t perform.

Or conversely, we see them unsure of their level of authority and fearful of hurting the team members’ feelings, resulting in a lackadaisical approach to team performance.

Both scenarios harm team effectiveness, efficiency, morale, and culture.

In the previous blog and podcast, we began our discussion on Emerging Leaders by describing a concept from our book, “Gapology,” called EDGE. This is an acronym for Energy, Decisive, Greatness, and Expectations. These are some of the primary skills we’ve witnessed repeatedly in the top group of winning leaders who consistently deliver maximum results. Setting clear expectations is the most complex of those four skills, yet the components may be the easiest to understand.

Here are some tips for setting clear expectations using Gapology:

  • Determine what is possible. Looking at those team members who currently perform at the top of their peer group will provide us with the data needed to build clarity around the expected results. With careful analysis, we can see what they are doing and producing, and then we can take that information and align it with our goals.

  • Establish clarity of KPIs. Once we have determined what is possible, we need to decide on the Key Performance Indicators that can be reasonably expected. These should be specific, measurable results that can be indicated on a tracker and immediately recognized as either success or failure in reaching the expectations.

  • Define Behaviors for Others. Based on the behaviors exhibited by the top-performing team members, we must then define the most reasonable behaviors we will expect from the rest of the team. These behaviors, when shown, must be able to produce the KPIs we will be measuring. This is a critical step. We must be able to glean from the KPI whether the behaviors are in place, so they must effectively deliver those KPI expectations.

  • Simplicity & Known by All. When defining the expectations, keep simplicity in mind. Simplicity is essential for widespread understanding and acceptance. Keep all instructions super simple and straightforward, and then develop a simple process for delivering them to the team with repetition to ensure comprehension.

  • Align with Purpose. Aligning expectations with your organizational purpose connects the team members’ minds with their hearts. Ensuring that behaviors and results are aligned will quickly close any Importance Gap they may have and solidify their adoption of them overall.

  • Include in Your Leadership Rhythm. Build your day’s analysis, recognition, coaching, and communication elements with these expectations as the foundation. If these are the essential pieces of performance for the team, you must keep them at the forefront of everything you do. Starting each week with careful analysis, beginning each meeting with a recap, celebrating those winning, and personal coaching sessions for those struggling will convey that these expectations are essential to you. The team will see your explicit focus on this rhythm and adopt them.

As new leaders, you will face many challenges, as we mentioned. Establishing a straightforward process for setting expectations will provide a solid foundation for tackling them. And remember, start by setting expectations for yourself first!


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