3 Problems with Unspoken Expectations in Leadership

Expectations concept.

I was talking with a youth pastor recently. He is experiencing tremendous disappointment in his current position. He feels he is doing everything well, but his pastor never seemed pleased with his progress.

As we talked, it became clear to me that he and his pastor had different expectations of what makes a healthy youth ministry, but the youth pastor was uncertain what it would take to make the pastor happy. Unless the two of them get on the same page, this youth pastor is destined for many disappointing days ahead.

This is not a unique scenario.

In fact, if I’m not careful, this is one struggle I can have in leadership.

I have seen many leaders, including myself, who hold people accountable for a high level of success, but are never clear on what the success they are seeking even looks like. It’s actually hard to hold someone responsible for meeting an expectation you’ve never given them.

There are lots of problems created when we don’t give people clear expectations.

Here are 3 problems with having unspoken expectations:

Expectations are misunderstood – Many leaders assume everyone will come to the same conclusion they would, so they fail to give adequate direction. If left unspoken, however, the senior leader’s expectations are never met and team member’s remain confused and frustrated.

Expectations are never met – The team member will make up the expectations when not made clear. That’s okay when the leader delegates this task but when the leader has defined expectations, but they are never made clear, a team member has no choice but to move forward on their own.

Everyone is disappointed - One of the hardest times for a leader is watching his or her team or organization suffer through mediocre results. One of the most frustrating times for a team member is realizing they aren’t living up to potential or that they aren’t appreciated on the team. Both sides lose when expectations aren’t made clear.

If you want your team to achieve the expectations you have for them make sure the team knows clearly what’s expected of them. Don’t assume they read your mind. If you are not sure how to make sure they understand you, read THIS POST.

Have you worked for someone who didn’t give you clear expectations of what they expected? Tell me about it.

Leaders, how do you make sure your team understands what you expect? Share your secrets.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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