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Establish Clear Employee Expectations In Under An Hour | MGMT Playbook

Use this simple approach to help your team achieve exceptional performance

Read time: 3 minutes and 23 seconds

What Did You Expect?

My guess is that when you signed up, you were hoping to get regular leadership insights from me for managing high-performing teams.

Perhaps draw upon my 20 years of experience across industries, including a decade at Bridgewater Associates?

Instead, you got a very dramatic pause.

You see, I've been reluctant to hit 'Go' on this until I was confident in two things:

  1. I could commit to publishing weekly for at least one year

  2. I could offer you something differentiated and worthy of your attention 

I don't want to write another newsletter. I've failed if this falls in your "someday maybe" folder. Because someday doesn't come, and maybe is usually never.

I want you to know that when you click open each week, you'll get something high-signal and nutrient-dense. Ideas you can put to use immediately.

A management play you can run.

You should see my name in your inbox and think, "Yes! A note from my coach."

So with that, I'm thrilled to welcome you to Issue 1 of The MGMT Playbook.

Game on!

Now, if you follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, you know setting expectations might be the one thing I talk about even more than taking action and iterating.

And before I ask you to give me a small slice of your most precious asset - your attention - I want to set clear expectations with you.

  • Each issue will take less than 5 minutes to read. Leaders like you are too busy for fluff.

  • You'll leave with one tip, tactic or template you can use with you team immediately.

  • Once a month, we'll take the playbook live with a free, subscriber-only webinar.

So that's our contract. If you commit a few hours of your time this year, I'll provide 50+ ways that you can lead higher-impact teams more efficiently.

Set Them. But Don't Forget Them.

So now that I've set expectations with you, how can you set clear expectations with your team?

  1. Author together. Autonomy leads to ownership, as dictated expectations often get discarded. You don't incentivize innovation if you force them to do it your way.

  2. Agree on goals. SMART, FAST, OKR - it doesn't matter. As long as they have a number and a timeline, you're good. I bet most of you already do this part.

  3. Align on How. Most leaders skip this part. Don't be most leaders. If cultural norms, existing processes, budget targets, or known pitfalls exist, don't assume your team knows your secret expectations. Most disagreements start here.

  4. Amplify the upside. Most of your team doesn't want to meet expectations. They want to exceed them. So use this fact to help nudge them in the right direction. Do you want it sooner? More volume? Lower cost? Align your incentives with the most critical lever.

  5. Act on data. Companies are dynamic, so your expectations need to evolve accordingly. Agreeing on the data that will trigger your support or intervention establishes the distance your team needs to thrive.

With those questions as the nucleus, here's how I turn them into an ongoing performance accelerator.

Start with a 30-minute conversation to discuss the key points above. The more they help author these expectations, the more they'll buy into them. I typically ask them to take the next step and commit our conversation to a drafted expectations card (see below). This confirms their understanding and gives you leverage.

Note: if you have a team with several people in similar roles, it may make sense for you to create a generic baseline expectations card for each individual to iterate from.

Once they're set, you want to ensure you're revisiting on a regular cadence. This is different than weekly progress reports. This is when you both step back and assess their performance relative to the expectations. I find that quarterly leaves enough space for improvement without getting too out of sync with changes in the business.

Finally, the biggest unlock for me was the "grade & compare" process. Before that quarterly review, both you and your employee should grade independently. Then in the session, you can compare and reconcile where you disagree. This helps ensure they take ownership of their performance while surfacing meaningful disagreement.

Without this step, you risk them deferring to your authority and leaving issues unresolved. It's a little more work near-term but saves you a lot of heartache during performance reviews.

Join 15,000+ leaders who get one tip, tool, or template (like the one below) every week in their inbox.

Free Expectations Template

I firmly believe in running my team with the Minimum Viable Process. I've worked with too many people who've gold-plated a process or template that collapsed under its own weight. The goal gets lost in a haystack of tasks.

So my template to support this process is not fancy (and you're welcome to steal it). In many cases, it only takes a few bullets to get on the same page.

Remember, this is about building trust and alignment, so the template doesn't manage for you. It simply guides a critical conversation clearly.

Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.

Upcoming Events

On October 5th, we kick off the 12th cohort of the MGMT Accelerator. The last group of leaders said it was worth 28x what they paid. Where else can you get a return like that in under a month?

I offer 1:1 coaching to every leader, so seats are limited.

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