Unsaid Expectations

This exercise is designed to reveal the expectations that are not being communicated. In the absence of clear guidelines, members of the group will use the distributed functions of relationship-building and learning to create patterns of behavior and turn them into values or norms. If these individual expressions are not productive, then we as leaders need to intervene. Even if they are productive, we may want to formalize them in an expectation interchange relationship.


Consider one of the members of the group whose individual task performance is generally positive, but who might improve in his or her performance with others.


  • What does you expect this individual to do? What does an excellent output look like, in terms of both the task and the connections between this task and other tasks/members?

  • Which expectations were communicated, and in what forms?

  • Were the forms used understood by the member?

  • Which expectations were not communicated, or were communicated in an unclear manner?

  • What factors cause this behavioral pattern to be selected by the members? Routine/familiarity, ease or minimizing effort, expectations from others, external (non-leadership) reward or punishment, etc.

  • Did he or she understand the “why?” (This is answered through a combination of vision and relationships.)

  • What is your functional intervention plan to communicate the un-communicated expectations?


These questions may form the basis for a discussion with the individual member. If you do not know the answer, it may be useful to explore with the individual. Particularly with high-potential members, your time spent addressing the cause and consequences of uncommunicated expectations may create a high-performer.