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Lost at Sea: Unclear Expectations Sink Performance, Neuroscience Strategies for Team Success


Last week we shared the #1 reason for underperformance. In this week’s blog we will share the #2 reason: hot on its heels as the number two reason is something you might or might not expect: a lack of clear expectations.


You see, a lack of clear expectations can be just as detrimental as poor leadership. When team members are unsure of what's expected of them, they’re left adrift, unable to focus and deliver results. It's like being a sailor on a ship without a compass – they might give their best effort, but without a clear direction, they could end up off course.


Here’s where neuroscience comes in: when people are uncertain, their brains enter a state of alert. The amygdala, the brain's alarm bell, activates, triggering a fight-or-flight response. When this happens, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation, is suppressed. It's like a ship’s captain being blindfolded.


Now, let's explore solutions:

  • Clear Communication: It’s crucial to provide unambiguous instructions, clear job roles, and defined performance metrics. If your team knows what’s expected, they can navigate towards those goals more confidently and effectively.

  • Empower and Delegate: Trust your team members with decision-making responsibilities. When they feel empowered and trusted, they’ll naturally take ownership and responsibility for their work.

  • Consistent Feedback: Encourage open communication and regular feedback. When team members know where they stand and how they can improve, it fuels their motivation to excel.


Here’s a hands-on exercise to help you clarify expectations:

"The Expectation Alignment" exercise: Schedule a one-on-one with each team member. Share your expectations for their role and ask them to share their understanding of the same. Identify any gaps or misunderstandings and align on the expectations together.


Make it a two-way street, allowing them to express their expectations from you as a leader.

I know you’re busy, so here’s a quick action plan to clarify expectations:

  • Set Expectations Early: When onboarding new team members, ensure they understand their roles, responsibilities, and performance metrics.

  • Regular Check-Ins: Conduct weekly or bi-weekly check-ins to review progress, address concerns, and clarify any ambiguities.

  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate when team members meet or exceed expectations. This reinforces a culture of performance and appreciation.

By establishing clear expectations, you give your team a compass to navigate, making it easier for them to reach their destination and perform at their best.


Now, are you ready to elevate your leadership and help your team excel? Our leadership program for growth acceleration has helped countless leaders like you master the art of effective leadership and achieve remarkable results.


Let’s embark on a journey to enhance your leadership and set clear expectations for success. Contact us today, and let’s make exceptional performance a reality for your team.

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