If you are a Manager, Head of Department, Coordinator, Team Leader, Supervisor, Owner or an aspirant hoping to strike a position, this article is for you.

Managing the expectations of your team is an important part of your role as a leader or manager. Being open and honest about what the team can expect, and what you expect from them, can help to build trust, increase engagement, and prevent frustrations from arising.

The Four “E’s” of Building a Great Team

Tharrett and Peterson, in their book Fitness Management (2006), postulate four E’s of building a great team. These Four E’s lay the stepping stones that help employees evolve and flourish:

Expectations—Setting The Course For The Team

The first step in building a team of employees is to establish clear expectations for both individual and team performance. Without clear expectations, individuals and teams will not have the direction that they need to be successful.

Among the components that are essential for creating clear expectations in that regard are the following:

  • provide each team member with an introduction to the core values and philosophies of the organization.
  • provide each team member with a job model, a copy of the club’s organizational chart, and a listing of his or her personal annual performance goals.
  • have a clear set of employee policies and rules.
  • provide each employee with a personal development plan, if there is one.
  • have regular team meetings.
  • develop new tools to share expectations with the team.

Equipping—Strengthening the Team Through Education and Growth

The second step in building a great team is to provide an environment that equips the members of the team to successfully undertake and fulfill the organization’s expectations.

Too many businesses mistakenly assume that once their expectations have been defined, their employees will proceed to successfully achieve them. In reality, the process is not automatic.

Rather, managers should provide the members of their teams with the resources they need to meet both their and the team’s expectations. This process is commonly referred to as “equipping the team” and includes the following:

  • institute an internal formal-education system for all employees.
  • establish an external continuing-education program for the enhancement of each team member’s technical, and people skills.
  • provide the tools employees need to do their jobs.
  • open the communication lines.
  • walk the talk.

Encouragement— The Fuel of Champions

The next step in building a great team is to create an environment that encourages employees to take ownership in their own and their team’s performance. Such an environment should also reward the facility’s employees when certain process and outcome goals are achieved.

Encouragement is normally a blend of strategies:

  • have a formal employee recognition program.
  • leaders must be cheerleaders.
  • hold recognition meetings.
  • avoid finger-pointing.

Evaluation— Measuring The Expected

The final step in the four “E’s” is evaluation. If the organization wants its employees to succeed both individually and collectively, it needs to establish an evaluation system that measures what is expected of its employees and provides constructive feedback for their continuous growth.

Among the key evaluation tools managers should consider are the following:

  • create objective performance evaluations for each employee.
  • evaluate at least twice a year.
  • make it a habit to evaluate daily.
  • create a business scorecard.
  • never let performance go without recognition, education and follow-up.

So, How Do You MANAGE Team Expectations?

Being a leader means a lot to the image and expectations of the business. The following suggestions will help you to manage your team’s expectations effectively:

Make team roles and responsibilities clear

It is vital for team members to know exactly what is expected of them at work, and what they can expect from their roles. Providing employees with clear job descriptions and a thorough induction when they join the organisation are both effective ways of doing this.

If team members take on new responsibilities as they progress and develop in their roles, their job descriptions should be updated to reflect these changes.

Provide Structure

Providing structure starts with defining a direction and setting clear boundaries. Your direction might come from your boss, your customers, your own vision for the future, or even from the collective wisdom of your team. Whenever it comes about, it needs to be clearly articulated and spoken about often. It ensures you are all on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished.

Next, setting clear boundaries requires defining what is within the scope of work and what is not, what appropriate behavior is and what is not, and what productive work is and what is not. Sometimes this feels bossy; as if you are telling people what to do. But when people have guidelines within which to operate, they are actually more empowered to act, take initiative, and innovate.

Be Upfront

Make your team aware of your expectations from the outset of a project or initiative, and provide reminders of this from time to time during team meetings and one-to-one conversations.

Setting expectations half-way through a project or in response to a mistake or setback will only confuse and frustrate team members.

Highlight The Strategic Relevance Of Your Expectations

Demonstrating the link between your expectations and your organisation’s strategy will help employees understand how their work relates to the wider objectives of the organisation. For example, a strategic objective of fostering a collaborative working culture could translate into an expectation for team members to work effectively together.

Take A Team Temperature Check

To manage your team’s expectations effectively, you first need to understand what these expectations are. An effective way of doing this is to circulate a survey around your team. In the survey, you may wish to include questions about team expectations relating to working practices, resources, development opportunities and the team environment.

Discuss Individual Expectations

As part of your regular one-to-one conversations with team members, you should aim to gain an understanding of their expectations as individuals. It is a good idea to ask employees to be as specific as possible during these conversations, as this will provide you with a more accurate impression of exactly what their expectations are. Asking open questions such as ‘How do you think this could be delivered?’, ‘What do you think this would help you achieve?’ will help you to do this.

Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

It is vital that you are realistic when responding to team members’ expectations. If something simply isn’t feasible, you should be upfront with team members and explain the reasons why. Of course there may be times when circumstances change and it becomes difficult, or even impossible, to deliver something you have previously promised your team. If this happens, it is important to be honest about this and provide your team with an explanation.

Seek Creative Solutions

If it is possible to meet a basic expectation in a slightly different way, you should discuss this with your team. For example, if you are unable to provide external training and development opportunities, you might be able to develop employees through internal coaching or mentoring instead. Similarly, if it is not feasible to reward your team financially for discretionary effort or exceptional performance (e.g. with a cash bonus), you could consider providing them with a non-financial reward, such as an additional day’s annual leave, as an alternative.

Give and Receive Feedback

Nobody is perfect; a conversation that includes two-way feedback is one of the best ways to ensure continued improvement, upward progress, and ultimately, better performance. Additionally, an honest conversation where you seek and accept feedback without defensiveness or excuses builds trust and your relationship with your team.

Keep Your Team Informed

If you become aware of any changes that are going to take place in your team or organisation, it is important to inform your team of them as soon as possible. Explain why the change is going to happen, how it will affect them, and whether it will alter your expectations of the team. Wherever possible, aim to give your team plenty of notice about changes or new initiatives and provide realistic timescales.

One of the big organizations I work for, Edexcel, based in London runs online Career Professional Development (CPD) courses for its employees from management to assessment within the education sector. The courses aren’t mandatory but they do enhance your professional standing and repertoire. UK schools run in-service training (INSET) courses twice a term just to keep employees abreast of major developments. I believe this should be a goal each organization should strive for, especially, in promoting the career professional development of its employees.

Additional Reading


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As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.  

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