High Expectations Lead to High Performance

There is one word that keeps coming up in my conversations this week…


What are the expectations that we set for ourselves as well as others? In business, how do you communicate expectations with your business partner, customers, or employees?

Or do you leave a lot to chance and hope for the best?

Any good leader has high expectations of themselves…and usually for those they work with. Many times, a leader will see things in others that they don’t see in themselves. Good leaders can push people to do things they never imagined being able to do. But that doesn’t work if the leader isn’t supportive and encouraging through the process. If the leader doesn’t nurture and mentor in ways that support the expectation, failure will be the result.

Many years ago, I read, “People act in ways that are consistent with others’ expectations of them.” (The Leadership Challenge) 

Over the years I have never forgotten that phrase, and it has become the foundation of how I build every relationship in business and personally.

Expectations…it’s all about setting the expectations. When you don’t communicate what you need from any type of relationship, it leads to disappointment, hurt, or missed goals.

For purposes of this blog post…let’s talk about leaders and employees. When you don’t share the expectations with your employees or team, they have no idea how to achieve success.

It’s not just about you sharing YOUR expectations with your employee.

It’s also about understanding THEIR expectations as well.

One of the biggest lessons PSSworks! strives to teach in its Brilliant Leader Program is how to share expectations – between leader and employee. It’s a two-way street and when you both understand the expectations, it becomes much easier to manage, build, and win with any relationship.

As a leader, your responsibility entails sharing the expectations of the company, its goals and vision, and the best way to work together to achieve those goals. Share them with clarity, passion, and an open mind. You may have specific expectations you need to convey…do that in a way that your employee understands what is required of him or her. Ask your employee if they understand the expectations. Encourage them to share thoughts. Create an environment that supports engagement from both sides. An environment that is free from criticism, and instead full of trust and respect, will generate success in most cases.

As an employee, it is your responsibility to understand and acknowledge your employer’s expectations. Can you meet those expectations? Your employer may have expectations that you know you will have difficulty meeting. Maybe you don’t have the tools, the time, or something else is in your way. Discuss those issues openly in a forum that allows you both to come to an agreement about how to move forward.

In the early 2000’s, I was tasked to create a new customer service system for our call center representatives. What we did was so customized that trying to purchase an out of the box application would have meant a great deal of time customizing, as well as thousands of dollars to get the system to where we could even use it efficiently.

The owner of the company decided that he would have one of our programmers build it from bottom up. I voiced my concerns with this decision for the simple fact that the programmer had no idea how we functioned in customer service. How would he know how to create systems that would flow in my department? How would he create a system that would allow us to do our jobs quickly and effectively but still give excellent service to our customers?

The owner quickly agreed, and then he set an expectation for me. He wanted me to participate in the creation of the system. I wasn’t a programmer…I was a Call Center Director. I had no experience in programming or building an application of this magnitude.

He said, ”If anyone can do this, it’s you. You have every procedure written and every system created. This will be a piece of cake for you. What part are you struggling with?”

“I’ve never written an application before. I guess I am concerned that I don’t know what I don’t know.”

He said to me, ”You are working with one of the best programmers…tell him what you want, and he will make it happen. If you get stuck or you need help, come see me. We will work through it together. But I know whatever the two of you create will be 100 times better than what I could buy!”

Our expectation of creating a more efficient customer service system that would speed up our on-call processes and get our customers off the phones and on to their day was our number one priority.

Speed and excellent service!

We built a kick-ass system in less than five months that met those expectations. There were many conversations, changes, and adjustments along the way…but we all worked together, and the owner supported, counseled, and pushed me to make decisions that weren’t always comfortable for me.

I grew tremendously from that experience in both leadership and my ability to create better systems.

High expectations will lead your team to higher performances.