By Jeffrey Cartwright, Managing Partner | 3  min read

In this article

  • How leadership communicates expectations has a direct impact on the success of your business.
  • Addressing unmet expectations begins with examining how clearly those expectations have been communicated to team members.
  • There are three keys to effective communication of expectations for optimal performance and success.

Being an optimist, I believe that people will strive to exceed expectations. We, as business owners or CEOs, believe that we are great communicators and that we effectively and consistently communicate the high expectations that are required for our business to achieve the superior results we desire.


Most CEOs and owners do, in fact, have high expectations for success. Therefore we expect great things from our team members. When we are later disappointed because our team did not meet these expectations, we must examine ourselves to see if we have clearly stated these expectations. Sometimes, the reality is that we have set low expectations inadvertently. What accounts for this difference in our perception of communication of high expectations by the leader and the low expectations received by the team?

Here are three key factors to ensure your expectations are being communicated as clearly as possible:

    1. Actions Not Words
      One way that we communicate low expectations is to tolerate underperformance. When we accept that a manager or teammate can do less than what is expected, it communicates our real expectation level to not only the individual but to the rest of the team. While we should praise in public and discipline in private, teammates have a way of knowing when someone is underperforming and they expect the leader to address the issue. Failure to do so communicates to the rest of the team that it is satisfactory to do less than an outstanding job. Generally speaking, when substandard performance is addressed, the performance of the rest of the team both individually and collectively improves.
    2. The Team Watches the Leader
      I remember my first assignment as an officer in the US Army. Our unit would have our next higher level commander visit on occasion. This brigadier general was known to like chocolate ice cream. When we knew that he was going to visit our location, the mess hall would ensure that we had on hand chocolate ice cream. The interesting thing was that we didn’t regularly have chocolate ice cream in the mess hall for our soldiers. In fact, we never had chocolate ice cream except immediately before the general came to visit. The moral of this story is that since we knew what he liked, we always wanted to please him and we suddenly would buy (outside of the US Army supply chain) chocolate ice cream. Similarly, our team members want to be viewed positively by leadership and will go through extraordinary effort to ensure that their performance exceeds our expectations.
    3. Living Out Our Expectations
      To ensure the success of our business, we need to live out our expectations. We need to communicate our expectations in words, as well as actions. The old military adage is that we should inspect what we expect. By following up in this way, we reinforce our expectations through our physical observations, and we have the opportunity to reinforce the level of performance that enhances the chance of overall business success.


What expectations are you communicating to your team? Do you have unmet high expectations? Boost performance within your organization by taking a close look at exactly how you are communicating high expectations to your team members.

Contact Shoreview Advisors today to learn more about our unique business solutions that can help your organization produce high revenue growth.