How to Lead and Manage Expectations on Your Staff Team

There is a natural tension in managing the difference between your expectations and the expectations of those you lead.

Expectations lead to either delight or disappointment, and it is unmet expectations that are the source of life’s greatest disappointments.

Can you think back to a particular Christmas as a child and remember something you wanted more than your heart could imagine?

I remember, as a six-year-old kid, wanting a dog for Christmas. I was so excited I couldn’t wait. My sister and I wanted either an Irish Setter or a Golden Retriever. Our hearts were set with high hopes. Finally, my parents brought home a Boxer. (A what?!) It had one floppy ear, one pointy ear, and a nub for a tail. We were so disappointed.

Another time, when I was 12, I wanted an electric guitar so bad I could taste it. And when I saw it under the tree on Christmas morning, I nearly lost my mind! My delight was off the charts, and to this day, I still love, collect and play guitars.

Met and unmet expectations set the emotional tone for most of our life experiences.

That reality does not stop in adulthood or on your church staff. The people become more mature, but the stakes, hopes, dreams, and desires are much higher.

  • You have expectations of your church for you personally.
  • Likewise, you have expectations of your staff.
  • And your staff has expectations of the church and you.

Can you see the potential for both delight and disappointment?

There is a staggering amount.

If you are unaware of the profound impact of expectations in the culture of a church staff or don’t really know what the expectations are, you are headed for elevated and emotionally-charged challenges.

Leading team expectations well has two major categories, personal and organizational.

Since the personal element is the core of this issue, let’s start with you.

Personal

1) Lead and manage your own personal expectations before attempting to manage the expectations of the team you lead.

If you lead staff, a primary reason to start with examining your own expectations first is because of what it does in your soul. For example, a soul filled with delight behaves much differently than a soul filled with disappointment.

Two key questions:

Question 1 – Are you honest with God about your desires?

Common examples:
“I wanted to be the one to be on the stage to give the talk.”
“Pretty much everyone was in that meeting but me.”
“God, I prayed and thought you wanted me to be the next campus pastor.”
“God, I’m disappointed.”

This may not happen often, but it definitely happens, and it’s so important to work through it with God. Don’t stuff it.

The staff you lead experience the same things, such as, “I really thought I’d get bigger raise.” You can see the complexity, can’t you?

Question 2 – Are you in alignment with God?

How’s your walk with God? If it isn’t where you want it to be, it’s tough to manage your expectations because your perspective is probably skewed.

You want to see the situation as God does, which requires a nearness to God to hear his voice and follow.

2) The emotions connected to your expectations in life and your leadership leak into the staff you lead.

Your heart level response to personal met, and unmet expectations, either lifts or lowers your team.

So ask yourself:

Are you disappointed or delighted with what you perceive God to be doing?

Let me give you a great tool to use for yourself, your marriage, your kids, and your staff. We know met expectations lead to delight, to great joy! But look at what can happen on the disappointment side.

Unmet expectations lead to disappointment. Prolonged disappointment leads to discouragement, prolonged discouragement leads to frustration, and prolonged frustration leads to anger.  

Your staff experience the same thing.

Note: By disappointment, I’m not talking about a lousy meal at a restaurant. Your life is too big, and that is too small to get stuck on things like that. Just go to a different restaurant next time and move on. This is in the context of more substantial disappointments.

Nobody wakes up angry; something has been brewing for a long time. So it’s wise to pay attention.

Don’t dismiss disappointments and discouragements in your own life and those you love and lead. But, remember, when they are sustained over time they lead to frustration, even anger.

Yes… Anger can also be a healthy God-given emotion, for example, for justice or protecting others, but I hope the context for this post is clear.

Organizational

Focus and alignment are critical to managing expectations.

Your staff team is highly diverse in terms of their functions, but their hearts, direction, and strategy need to be in perfect alignment.

This isn’t easy, and here’s why.

Different functions on your staff team seem to create different priorities, but they don’t. (If you are aligned, the big-picture priorities are the same.) However, different functions do create different pressures.

It’s those pressures that create tension in the realm of met and unmet expectations. Alignment of priorities helps to relieve that tension.

If your team is not aligned, disappointment turns to discouragement, and without healthy resolution, frustration soon kicks in.

Practical ways to lead and manage expectations on your team.

1) Manage your expectations first.

Be honest about what you desire.

A leader who doesn’t know what they want is a dangerous leader.

When you don’t know what you want, you can never get it. Therefore, your expectations are never met. As a result, you might become impossible to please and possibly angry.

2) Want and pursue the best for your team.

Check your heart. Do you want more for your team or from them?

It’s not always a heart issue; true, you may just be missing some cues. Do you sense that your pulse on the team is accurate?

  • Ask your staff what they want.
  • What do they need?
  • What are their expectations?

You can’t meet all their expectations, but you can have honest and meaningful conversations.

3) Think through your organizational expectations and be crystal clear when you say them.

One leader asked me, “Isn’t their job description enough?

Nope.

The job description is essential, but it’s only the foundation. You need to talk about the responsibilities regularly. Don’t allow the rate of change in your church to outpace the updates in your job descriptions.

Above all, maintain consistent open, and honest communications about your expectations.

4) Understand how each person on your team is different than you.

We have different perspectives, personalities, and levels of drive than many of the people we lead. We must always be aware of those differences to communicate and truly connect.

For example, an introvert talking with an extrovert creates a unique dynamic that must be understood.

Another example, some of the staff I’ve led over the years respond better to a verbal conversation; others find better clarity in a written email.

Further, in terms of strength of assertiveness in communication, among those who prefer verbal, some need a 2X4-sized impact, or they don’t even think you are talking. Others need only the force of a feather.  

5) Invest in their development.

Can you see them in their growing, maturing, leading, stronger selves?

How intentional is your development of your team to help them get there?

6) Align their gifts and talents with the vision and strategy.

As you develop each person or see that they are developed by someone, be sure to help them see how their gifts and talents align with the vision and strategy.

Questions for your development:

  1. In what specific ways do you see how your expectations (met or unmet) (delight and disappointment) impact the staff you lead?
  2. How do you help bring a healthy balance to the organizational expectations and personal expectations of your team?
  3. How do you know if your expectations of staff on your team are too high or too low? (Which way do you think you lean, too easy or too tough?)

3 thoughts on “How to Lead and Manage Expectations on Your Staff Team”

  1. Thank you for sharing this with me. I think one need to identify area of unmet and met expectation then, redress where necessary.

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