Leadership Traps: Clear Expectations (vol.2)

Robert Shaffer aptly pointed out that one of the major mistakes leaders make is:

“Failing to set proper expectations”

As a leader I am notorious for painting bold picture of the future with board brilliant strokes of color which stirs the emotion but leaves the follower with few practical ways to make this dream come true. Often within the circles of faith we cover up this mistake by speaking of following God by faith and not by sight, but in reality our people don’t know where to take the first step.

If a leader desires to create meaningful lasting change, he or she must be able to articulate in clear steps how we are going to get there today. Where do we start. What do we need to do, and when do we plan on getting there.

A few years ago I serve with a pastor who loved to plan and planned down to the minute. When you traveled cross country with him he gave you an itinerary that announced the departure time and the arrival time and even had rest stops planned to the minute (i.e…rest stop, Trust or Consequences, New Mexico, 8:28 a.m. CST). He knew where he was going. He knew how he was going to get there, and he planned every stop along the way. His way may have been a little rigid for some, but everyone on the trip had confidence of their arrival on time at their destination!

How does a leader break out of this trap?

First, the leader need to clearly understand the vision for the organization. If you don’t know where you are going, then how will you know how to get there? Once the vision is clearly defined and understood, then the leader must work his or way back from the destination to determine the steps necessary to get there.

Each of these steps must be clearly defined and understood. The leader must be able to explain what he or she expects and what the end product looks like. As the leader empowers those who serve along side, he or she must be willing to articulate to his or her team what is expected of them. These expectations need to be definable and measurable so the team can evaluate their effectiveness. These expectations will help the team know how to plan their work week, how to develop and spend their budgets, and how to deploy their workforce.

Yes ago, Andy Anderson revolutionized Sunday School by producing the Sunday School Growth Spiral. This planning tool focused the Sunday School leadership on key actions and activities that would facilitate growth–actions like contacting prospects, enrolling new members, training new leaders, and starting new units. The power of this tool lay with its ability to point out to leaders and workers alike what to do.

Another key aspect of having clear expectations is creating accountable relationships. Accountability and responsibility are vital important when it comes to getting things done. When I was a church planter years ago, I had to make a monthly report of my activities and actions. Knowing I had to report my actions often inspired me to get out and make visits to prospects when I would have preferred to do busy work. I struggle with this aspect of leadership, but if I am serious about leading in these days I am going to have to learn to be more assertive and directive in my approach. I must remember people are depending on me to lead and set the tone for the future.

When a staff works in a fog of big ideas without specific plans and objectives don’t be surprised if little significant change really ever happens. This is a mistake we cannot afford to make.


Filed under Leadership

3 responses to “Leadership Traps: Clear Expectations (vol.2)

  1. Accountability is critical. It also implies repercussions for failure to perform. Compassion sometimes means disciplinary action because without it, there is little chance of reformed behavior. Misplaced compassion (i.e. pardons of disciplinary action) can have dire negative impact on an organization. Discipline is necessary in a business organization, within a church staff and within a home. The failure to discipline can have multi-generational consequences.

    • Chris,

      Good word–I am learning this lesson. Here is where my mercy gifts get in the way of healthy leadership.

      Besides, as I hear you there is a difference between mercy and allow poor behavior.


  2. Yes, a big difference — and I’m guilty of sometimes confusing the two. I also struggle with weighing the cost of doing battle over some issues and choosing not to take them on if I’m not willing to pay the price — even when it might be the right thing to do!

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