The Power of Clear Expectations—Identifying What and Who

July 11, 2017 Mary Ellen Sailer


Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Each of these one-word questions can push organizational leaders and their team members toward the clarity they need to achieve success. In this post I’d like to focus on who and what.

When leaders set clear expectations, outcomes are much more likely to hit the mark. And it’s just as important for leaders to set milestones en route to the outcome. Doing so keeps people on track by helping them get the support and redirection they need when they need it, which sets them up for success so that they do their best work and hit their deadlines.

At this point it is helpful for a coach to ask what questions, such as:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What is the scope?
  • What will it cover?
  • What is left out?
  • What are we not doing?

Stating clear expectations, however, is just the start. The next step is for leaders to create clear agreements with others about what is expected. This is where who questions come into play. Let me share a recent example.

I coached a leader who acknowledged that when setting expectations, her team often sees things differently than she does. So instead of just addressing what, she also expands her discussions with team members by including who questions. Some great who questions include:

  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Who will talk to whom?
  • Who will report to whom?
  • Who will follow up with whom?
  • Who will be left holding the bag?

By using both what and who questions, leaders can provide better clarity, accountability, and agreement—all of which provide the foundation for shared success!

Rather than be annoyed with team members, or just doing the work yourself, consider how a combination of what and who questions can help you fill the gap between your perspective and the perspective of others to provide clarity and shared agreement.


About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer

Mary Ellen Sailer is a Senior Coach for The Ken Blanchard Companies®. She is a frequent contributor to Blanchard’s LeaderChat blog. Mary Ellen received her professional coach training from Coach U, earned the Professional Coach Certification from International Coach Federation and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Organizational Development from the University of Massachusetts.

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