10 expectations employees really have regarding their leaders

One of the great things about being a leader is that you can develop talents and be proud of their professional growth. You trace a plan to take them to next level, to be top performers, to become the best professionals in their area of expertise.

As a leader you become their main resource, the example, the motivator.

One of the first things you do as a leader is to set expectations: your employees have to know why they are there, their goals, and mainly “when” they get there.

I am a big believer that setting clear expectations with our subordinates is half way to success and every leader should do it. In conversations with peers, supervisors and even random professionals, most of them seemed to agree with me.

Let’s be fair: everyone wants results and that is the ultimate expectation that we have when we hire and develop someone. It is usually a pretty easy expectation to set, since most of the times, we link results to numeric achievements: sales, revenue, traffic increase, conversion, units per transaction, number of clicks in our website.

It might be more difficult to set expectations on intangible results such as improve team morale, improve relationship building skills, keeping high levels of enthusiasm, present good judgment among so many other things, but we sure set a bunch of them to each employee.

We talk about employee expectations, how to improve results, how to achieve goals, how to make our subordinates more productive, how to motivate them – we schedule meetings all the time to discuss, we go to trainings to make sure we can motivate them and hold them accountable, we have coaching sessions, and all kinds of “HR steps” to guarantee that they are performing, that they follow the rules, that they fulfill the expectations.

But what do we do when it is the other way around: do we ask our employees to set their expectations towards us?

It was then that I got that blank expression accompanied with a speechless moment.

I asked many colleagues, subordinates, supervisors or again, random people to flip the cards and talk about what we expect from our leaders, how to make sure that they are not letting us down and how we can make them accountable to their leadership role – want it or not, we also depend on their performance to be our best, their resourcefulness to fill our blanks and their leadership to guide us through growth.

After collecting over 75 responses, here is what I concluded:

1-    Employees are not used to set their expectations with their leaders, either because they do not know they should or because they are concerned about how the leader would react (it seems that we have always learned that leaders should set their expectations, not employees…).

2-    Subordinates need and want a trustful relationship with their leaders – trust, respect and integrity were some of the most mentioned expectations.

3-    They want feedback (constructive feedback) but also want to know that their leaders will back up their actions and decisions – there is nothing worse than having a leader who would go against you in front of a customer. No, they do not think their perfect but they want the right to learn from their mistakes and yet feel confident that their leader will be behind their decisions.

4-    COMMUNICATION: for sure one of the most common mentions, if not the number one – employees want clear and objective communications, they do not want to read between the lines and run the risk of misinterpreting the message.

5-    Opportunity to grow/succession plan. Subordinates expect you to trace a path for them, to think about their career and how they can grow within the organization.

6-    They want fair leaders.

7-    Motivation is not all about monetary rewards: since motivation is inherent within us, recognition, small perks, a great work environment and other things that might make us “happy” can also be very motivating.

8-    Subordinates expect an open-minded leader (with ears even more open) who will listen to their ideas, encourage and empower them and only then hold accountable. It helps when the leader is also approachable and does not promote a fearful environment.

9-    Visionary leaders, which are effective at leading a team toward achieving a common goal, were also mentioned quite frequently (and it came many times together with the open-minded, innovative and charismatic).

10- Employees also want a leader who is open for feedback and do not think he/she is always right. Employees want to know that their leaders are willing to go through a growing process: they do not expect their leaders to be always right, but they do expect that he/she can admit the mistakes, learn with them, make the necessary changes and move on. Leaders are also human beings and it is important that they show that to their employees.

When you encourage your employees to set expectations on you and any other leaders, you are opening the door to a more trustful, authentic and strong relationship. Besides, you get to know how to involve and motivate them, coach and develop, value and empower, leading the way to a successful and productive work relationship.







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