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From Confusion to Clarity: Solving the Underperformance Crisis with Defined Expectations

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

CEOs, HR professionals and managers:

Ambiguous expectations may sink your employees’ performance and potential. The uncertainty and confusion bred in the absence of clear directives isn’t just frustrating—it will cost your business time, resources, and opportunities.

Picture this: your employees, uncertain about what’s expected of them, navigate through tasks like sailors in a fog—blind, hesitant, without a clear direction. One day is this way, the next is the other, and the following day is once more another way. This isn’t just about missed targets; it’s about the squandered potential and declining morale of your once-capable employees.

The solution? Clear, unequivocal expectations. In this article, we cut through the fluff and delve deep into practical strategies rooted in neuroscience. We focus on what you, as a CEO, HR professional or manager, can do to dispel confusion, supercharge your employees’ motivation, and drive them towards exceptional performance.

Imagine a workplace where every employe knows exactly what is expected of him/ her. Where performance consistently hits the mark, and every employee excels, feeling both competent and confident.

When there is lack of clarity in setting and understanding expectations the results are far from positive. Let’s start by understanding the problem ….

Understanding Lack of Clarity

A Common Issue in Companies

Numerous organizations struggle with the challenge created by lack of clarity when it comes to expectations. Often, leaders’ assumptions about what employees should know or understand, lead to confusion and misalignment of efforts.

Feelings of overwhelm and frustration may arise. Frustration over a prolonged time can turn into anxiety. These unsettling feelings spread throughout the organisation killing in many cases the success and efficiency achieved.

On the other hand there might be assumptions from the employees on what they believe they are expected to know and understand and thus they stop asking for clarity out of fear, leading to demotivation and a sense of aimlessness.

They are plagued with questions: “What exactly is expected of me? Am I focusing my energies in the right direction?” The absence of well-defined expectations clouds their path, limiting their capacity to align their efforts effectively with organizational objectives. This becomes a ticking time bomb that affects productivity and results, if the problem is not taken care of at an early stage.

Questions may persist, like “Are we all on the same page?” or “Are our efforts aligned with the company’s objectives?”

The ripple effects may even extend to your customers, who experience the inconsistencies, lowered quality, and unreliability that underperformance brings. They might be left wondering "can this company truly meet our needs?"

The Neuroscience Perspective

Understanding how the brain processes and responds to expectations is vital for addressing the problem effectively. The human brain is wired to seek clarity and structure. When expectations are clearly defined, it triggers a sense of direction and purpose, positively influencing motivation and performance.

What CEOs, HR professionals and managers can do

Leadership plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for expectation clarity. Executives and leaders need to be exemplary in their communication of expectations. By doing so, they set the standard for the entire organization, promoting a culture of transparency and accountability.

Let us share this real life example:

Project Assignment in a Marketing Team

  • Clear Communication: ”Our goal for this quarter is to increase our social media engagement on our 3 chosen channels by 20%. We’ve identified key strategies to achieve this, including a new posting schedule and content diversification as sent to you by email."

  • Define Objectives: ”John, as our content creator, we expect you to produce two posts per week that align with our brand voice and engage at 50%. Sarah, please ensure that posts are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays 8am and analyze the engagement metrics we have agreed on weekly."

  • Continuous Feedback: ”Let’s have a 30 min team meeting every Tuesday at 9am to discuss post performances, share feedback, and brainstorm upcoming content."

  • Accessible Leadership: ”I’ll have an open-door policy between 2-4 PM every day. Feel free to drop by if you have any concerns, need clarifications about the project or wish to share ideas."

  • Regular Check-ins: ”We’ll have a more extensive review the first Monday each month 10am to 12pm to discuss our progress towards the quarterly goal, address any persistent issues, and adjust our strategies as needed."

By implementing these steps, the executive fosters an environment where team members feel supported, clear about their roles, and empowered to communicate openly, promoting a culture of transparency and enhanced performance.

Practical Exercise: Expectation Clarity Workshop

Conducting an expectation clarity workshop has shown to provide 30% less frustration, 35% higher motivation, 10% increased revenue. This workshop should encourage open discussions about expectations, ensuring everyone is on the same page. It's an opportunity to realign efforts and build a shared understanding of the organization's vision and goals.

Objective of the Workshop:

The goal of the workshop is to reduce frustration, boost motivation, and enhance revenue generation by clarifying organizational expectations and objectives.

How It Works:

During the workshop, participants are encouraged to engage in open discussions about organizational and role-specific expectations. The emphasis being on fostering a unified understanding of what is expected at various levels of operation, promoting alignment with the organization's vision and goals.

Key Outcomes:

Reduced Frustration: By clarifying expectations, the workshop aims to alleviate uncertainties and ambiguities, resulting in many cases in 30% less frustration among participants.

Boosted Motivation: The alignment of individual efforts with clear organizational expectations is intended to bolster motivation levels. Usually a 35% increase may be achieved.

Enhanced Revenue: Through clarified expectations and enhanced motivation, the workshop contributes in many cases to a 10% increase in revenue.


The workshop should employ various strategies and exercises designed to facilitate meaningful discussions, encourage the sharing of perspectives, and cultivate a shared understanding and alignment with organizational objectives. Participants can voice their assumptions, seek clarifications, and gain insights into the broader organizational vision and specific goals.

Hope you invest the time and courage to try it out and pave the way to enhanced performance and a thriving work environment. Wish you all success in your endeavors to clarify expectations and get rid of unnecessary cost of underperformance.

I will be hosting a Live LinkedIn Event where we will share practical strategies that CEOs, HR professionals, and managers can employ to shatter the chains of ambiguity and underperformance within their teams.

Together, let’s explore how to foster an environment where clear expectations reign, and employees thrive with confidence and purpose. If you're around, it would be fantastic to have you onboard for this essential conversation on elevating organizational success and employee satisfaction.


  • Why put time and effort in having clear expectations?

Clear expectations provide a sense of direction, purpose, and motivation to employees, leading to improved performance and overall success for the company.

  • How does neuroscience relate to setting clear expectations?

Neuroscience helps us understand how the brain processes and responds to expectations, highlighting the importance of clear communication and structure in expectation setting.

  • What is the role of leadership in addressing unclear expectations?

Leadership plays a crucial role in promoting a culture of transparency and accountability, ensuring that expectations are effectively communicated and understood throughout the organization.

  • How can a company foster a culture of transparency?

Fostering a culture of transparency involves encouraging open communication, active listening, and creating platforms for employees to voice their concerns and seek clarity on expectations.

  • What steps can be taken to align individual and organizational expectations?

Aligning individual and organizational expectations involves clearly communicating company objectives and linking individual goals to the broader organizational vision, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment.

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