organizational expectationsOne of the most important things a leader can do is set clear expectations for the team and individual team members. Most will agree with this statement, even though not everyone is very good at doing it. But there is another level of expectations that is equally important and even more often overlooked – organizational expectations.

What are Organizational Expectations?

Organizational expectations include the goals and objectives, but importantly extend to performance standards, ethics, and behavioral guidelines as well. These expectations are crucial for maintaining a sense of direction and meaning, but also form the foundation for the macroculture of the organization.

How to Set Them

Here are five steps that can help you set and reinforce organizational expectations.

  1. Clarify and communicate goals. As a senior leader, the goals may be clear to you. But are they clear throughout the organization? Understanding the goals and their purpose sets the context for your organizational expectations.
  2. Involve others. Collaborate with employees across the organization to set these expectations. This creates ownership, increases understanding, and multiplies commitment. Until your organizational expectations are clear, people cannot fully commit to and meet them.
  3. Create aligned expectations. Starting with the purpose and goals, create a set of organizational expectations around performance and behavior (more about what to include in a minute) that are aligned with your organization’s values and desired culture. Create a set of guideposts and benchmarks to help people know when they are meeting these expectations (and when they are not).
  4. Socialize the expectations. Unless you have a small organization in which everyone was involved in creating the expectations, you need to give people the chance to understand them. Giving people the chance to think about and ask questions about the list will increase understanding and commitment.
  5. Monitor progress. Pay attention to how well individuals and teams are doing in meeting these expectations. Helping people be accountable for these behaviors makes them real. And not just a list we pull out for the quarterly meeting. Monitoring progress regularly allows for identification of challenges and issues and helps the expectations to be met.
  6. Stay with it. As you help each other meet these expectations, they become a part of the fabric and culture of your organization. But only if they remain top of mind and regularly discussed and measured.

What to Include

The list of areas you could address when setting organizational expectations is long. But rather than give you a long list, here are three big areas to consider, with some questions to get you started. We call them the 3 C’s:

  • What are the expectations about how, when, and what we communicate with each other? What are the roles of individuals and groups in communication? How much dialogue is expected and encouraged?
  • What are our expectations about meetings? How much is collaboration encouraged and expected? Is time provided to make it happen? How do we do it?
  • How important are working relationships, trust, and connection? Do we invest time in improving these things? What do we do to strengthen mutual accountability and engagement?

Clear and mutually understood organizational expectations serve as the compass that directs your employees toward fulfilling their roles and responsibilities effectively. By establishing and communicating these expectations, you create an environment that nurtures accountability, employee engagement, and a shared sense of purpose. When you intentionally align expectations with your organization’s core values and overarching objectives, you lay the foundation for ongoing growth, adaptability, and enduring success.


Want to figure out how to create the levels of communication, collaboration and cohesion that will create great results for your team and organization? These are the questions our new book, The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team For Everyone’s Success, can help you answer – wherever your team members work.

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