Every morning Jack Wyrtzen—then Director of Word of Life—arrived at camp by boat; he then walked from the Boathouse to Pine Pavilion for the morning meeting.
Had there been trash to pick up along the way, Jack would very clearly communicate to the Camp Director that there should never be trash on the ground.
When the morning meeting ended, the Camp Director would come down to see me…
Since I was responsible for the area between the Boathouse and Pine Pavilion, he would communicate to me Jack’s expectation that “there should never be trash on the ground.”
The following summer I moved from Boat Captain to Assistant Business Manager. My office was in the same building as Jack’s office and, as a result, I received a much deeper education on what it means when leaders set the expectation.
I learned that after the morning meeting Jack walked up the hill to the White House for a “pit stop,” then to his office.
The reason Jack Wyrtzen walked from the meeting to the White House wasn’t just for a pit stop. He had the same level of expectation for the inside of the White House, restroom and everything in between.
But now there’s a big difference…
Jack doesn’t tell the Camp Director.
He walks into my office and communicates it directly to me. He expects that I will now participate in setting the expectation from that point forward.
As leaders, we need to fully understand that things don’t improve because we want them to. We must first lead by example, then set the expectations. We’ve all heard the little phrase, “If you don’t manage expectations, they will manage you.” So here are four keys for leaders who set the expectations:
- Define the expectation
Jack had clear, defined, details and definition on what he expected. If you want people to meet your expectations, then you need to lay out what you want clearly. If the restroom wasn’t clean, well-supplied, or not pristine in any way, Jack let me know. He could very clearly define the expectations.
“Desires with detail help define expectations.”
- Communicate the expectation
Funny thing about expectations, many times we expect them without clearly communicating them. It’s easier to talk about a problem, complain and beat-up the problem and have a lot of conversation around expectations. I can’t tell you how many times Jack communicated the expectations. Every time something wasn’t right, he would very clearly let me know. Communication works best when it is clear and consistent.
“Experience has taught me that nothing is heard until it has been said several times.
Only when I’ve heard my own words echoed or paraphrased back to me by subordinates as essential truths did I know they had been fully received.” – Gen Stanley McChrystal
- Model the expectation
Expectations without example are ineffective. If you want to set the expectations, you better walk the talk. If you expect people to work hard, you better work hard. If you want the trash picked up, be the best example of picking up trash. Setting the example earns you the right to set the expectations. When trying to set expectations without example, all your team will hear is “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
“As leaders, our walk needs to demonstrate our expectations.”
- Transition the expectation to execution
We heard from Jack so many times that we created the “Camp Stay Clean Plan.” This plan covered every inch of the camp property and transitioned the expectation to a responsibility for every staff member. We clearly defined and communicated the plan at staff training. Many times, at the end of weekly staff meetings, every staff member was required to spend 30 minutes cleaning up camp and looking after their part of the plan. We executed it consistently and did the hard work of making it a part of the culture.
“Execution is what turns expectations into actions
and will make them a successful part of your culture.”
Expectation is made up of defining, planning, communicating, executing, problem solving, as well as long-term persistence. Do these and you will be a leader that successfully sets expectations.
When Leaders Set the Example
How to Prepare for the Unknown
How to Prepare for the Unexpected