Aleta Maxwell

Setting Expectations as a Leader

What expectations do you have with your team at work?


Often what you deem as common sense at work is an expectation that not everyone might agree upon.

When you think of something as a common value and therefore do not communicate it as an expectation, you set yourself and your team up for failure. 

When I am helping my clients problem solve a challenge at work, I often hear phrases like “he/she should know better” or “they should do that without me asking.” There are many phrases along these lines, and when I hear this, I know there’s an expectation that has not been communicated.


As leaders, we must get over the idea of “should” and “should not.” These are expectations that are causing issues when we stubbornly refuse to communicate and discuss them with our team. If you haven’t communicated an expectation, can you really hold someone accountable for not meeting it?



Some common areas at work that have expectations but often do not get communicated clearly are:



Communication strategy is something that tends to have unspoken expectations that you might not be aware you have. You might feel like a specific check-in/meeting/feedback cadence works well, but have you communicated the what and why for this cadence to your team? Do you know how do they feel about it? They might be viewing this cadence as either micro-managing or too hands-off.

When you communicate and include your team in the strategy, they will be on board and engaged when you implement it.

An example might be that you like weekly team meetings and an email check-in once a week with each team member (or whatever cadence you prefer).

You could say to your team “I like to use this specific cadence to check-in and for feedback... and these are the reasons (x,y,z)… and I’d like to hit on these things when we meet...

Does this work for you?  Would you prefer something else and why?”

By including your team in the strategy creation, you will all be on the same page, there will be no confusion about the expectations and more engagement because they know the reasoning behind it all.





Do you have a development plan and expectations for your team? Have you communicated this with them?
Not including them into your plans might cost you a good employee. I’ve seen employees quit because they believe there’s no growth opportunities in the company even though their manager had a whole strategy in mind but failed to communicate it. I’ve also seen employees quit because they felt they were given way more responsibilities than their co-workers, when, in reality, their manager was prepping them for a higher role but failed to communicate this expectation to them.

This turnover based on expectations not communicated happens much more than you might think.

You must first know your development options for your team. Besides training on hard skills. Do you have time to coach them one-on-one? What about including outside coaching? Can you include online development courses in your budget? What about reading recommendations?


Evaluate your options and what you think should be realistic expectations for each member, then include them in the development plans. This could sound like “I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working and I’d like to know what your goals are. I’ve had some ideas on how we can help you reach these goals and would love to discuss them with you.”


Remote Working

With this new era of remote working as a norm, I’m finding that clear expectations are not being discussed leading to confusion and disappointment. Take the time to evaluate what the expectations are and discuss them with your team or supervisor.

Possible areas for discussion are:

o   Expectations for times all are online

o   How to communicate they are online

o   Modes of communication (ie. Slack, text, email, etc)

o   Expected response times

o   How to communicate when taking break or lunch



Work/Life Balance

I’ve witnessed a lot of assumptions go awry with this subject of work/life balance. Many people set a precedent then feel like they can’t pull back. Or often, there’s a set culture of either overworking or underworking and employees feel like they have to abide by this unspoken expectation.

If you are a leader and see your team either spending week after week working overtime or if you are seeing your team underworking, communicate your expectations and discuss what will work for both parties.

This might sound like “I’ve seen how hard you are working and appreciate your efforts. I want to check in to see how you feel about your hours and if you feel like it’s going well, or if there’s any changes you’d like to make?”




General Meeting Expectations

Communicate any expectations you have when it comes to meeting standards. This could include what you expect for zoom call etiquette and why.


I like to implement these three ways to set expectations in meetings:

1. Start the meeting by setting goals and the purpose of the meeting. 

2. Summarize quickly what was decided upon at the end of the meeting. Many times, there's lots of options discussed and it's not always clear to everyone what was decided on.

3. Finish the meeting by setting expectations of next steps. This is a huge time and confusion saver. Relieve stress by communicating exactly what everyone is responsible for and what next steps are for the group.

Practicing these steps will save so much time rehashing at the next meeting or being frustrated with either not knowing exactly what your next step responsibilities are or frustrated when others don’t follow through with what they said they’d do. 


Don’t be afraid to be the one to communicate expectations! It’s not pushy or aggressive. It’s being a great leader and your team will appreciate the communication and will feel included in the process.


There’s many more areas and ways we can evaluate and express our expectations in order to create a thriving, engaged and unified team.


Bottom line is:

Take stock of what your expectations are in all areas, then COMMUNICATE them with your supervisor, colleagues, team, clients, etc.


This will set you up for success!


Aleta Maxwell

I've spent years studying and developing communication skills specifically for leadership and the workplace. Conflict prevention and resolution is fundamental in leadership development and I coach leaders to develop key skills and tools to help their team excel.

If you'd like to develop these skills, there's several ways I can help!

> Read my book "Uplifting Leaders! How to have difficult conversations that motivate and inspire". This is a great first step as this book is packed with real life examples from my years of experience along with key tips and tricks to navigating difficult conversations in the workplace.

> Schedule some one-on-one coaching with me to develop a specific plan for you to reach your maximum potential.

> Bring me into your team to assist with team communication strategies. This looks like group coaching with individual coaching as needed. 

> Sign up for one of my online development courses. These courses are designed for employees and leaders to develop key skills at their own pace. 

> Schedule a one day or multi-day workshop for your company to present key ideas that will help the leadership team grow in their skills!