Team Expectations Are NOT Team Goals

Setting goals is an important part of leadership, but it is equally crucial to invest time and effort in clarifying team expectations.

By Sean Glaze

Although they often are mistakenly used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between team expectations and team goals.

Most leaders are familiar with goal setting. There are dozens of programs, books, and suggested methods of setting smart and compelling goalsfor your organization.

Goals are your main objectives and the ultimate success that you visualize achieving.

Perhaps your goal is to sell 10,000 widgets this year, or to win 20 games, or maybe you are determined to ensure that 100 percent of your people achieve a passing score on their next test.

Goals are the big-picture destination we strive toward. They are the top of the mountain that you are climbing.

The thing about goals is that, if we fail to meet them, there is usually an opportunity to re-commit after you have stumbled.

But expectations are NOT team goals.

Expectations are part of the process to achieving the goals you have identified.

Expectations are standards that define your daily efforts and behaviors.

And the standards that become accepted are not always those that you have printed in your employee handbook. Expectations are standards that MUST be maintained.

In a strong organization, expectations of important behaviors are non-negotiable. Stumbling is unacceptable.

At Chik-fil-A, employees will never say, “No problem.” There is a non-negotiable standard—an expectation—that they will reply with a warm and courteous “My pleasure!” instead. Strong organizations know that part of team developmentis putting consequences in place for people who do not meet their culture’s expectations.

Goals are your destination; expectations are the quality of vehicle that you use to get there. And the surest way to establish powerful expectations that will be truly understood by your people is to tell stories.

Stories about the goals you envision are inspiring…but stories about the expectations of behaviors and performance are influential. They are beacons that explain to everyone who they should be and what standards they should live up to if they hope to remain part of the team.

Consider this example from legendary casino owner Steve Wynn:

While on vacation in Paris, Steve and his family were staying at a Four Seasons, and a nice breakfast had just been delivered to the room. His daughter ordered a croissant, and only ate half of it, leaving the other for later that day.

When the family returned after a day of exploring Paris, the pastry was gone. It had been taken away by housekeeping.

The daughter was disappointed.

But a light was blinking on the hotel room telephone. There was a message from the front desk: The clerk explained that housekeeping had removed the half-eaten croissant from the room, assuming that the person who had been eating the croissant would prefer a fresh pastry later. The front desk had contacted the kitchen to set aside a fresh, whole croissant, and room service would gladly deliver the pastry whenever they preferred.

This is a tremendous story about attention to detail but also about the impressive level of teamwork and communication that the Four Seasons expects to exist between the different departments of its hotel. Every individual in the hotel understood the important goal of customer satisfaction. More to the point, everyone involved claimed ownership of their important role in making the guests’ experience a fantastic one.

Stories like this are what Steve Wynn shares with people in his organization to clearly illustrate the team expectations. I would be willing to bet that you can enjoy that same level of teamwork at any of his hotel properties today.

The goal was customer service…but virtually every business claims that as a goal. More important than just setting a goal, though, Wynn provided a clear example of the expectations and standards that were the hallmark of the culture he wanted to build.

Setting goals is an important part of leadership. But I encourage you to invest time and effort in clarifying your team expectations, as well.

As a speaker, author, and teambuilding coach for nearly 20 years, Sean Glaze entertains and influences groups with a blend of dynamic content, interactive activities, and practical action steps. His teambuilding Website,,provides information on the teambuilding events, speaking engagements, and training workshops he offers. If you are looking for a way to inspire your people to work together with better communication and increased morale, consider a day of teambuilding for your business. Glaze also welcomes followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn.


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