“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” 

William Shakespeare

With regards to setting clear expectations for their employees, the almost universal response of every leader we speak with is…they know exactly what they are supposed to do, I’ve told them a thousand times.

In regards to employees being clear on those expectations, the almost universal response of every employee we speak with is…I wish I knew what was expected of me.

Shakespeare said “expectations” are the root of all heartache. We disagree. We say that “unclear expectations” are the root of all heartache, frustration, disappointment, and the source of most organizational underperformance.

Rory Vaden, the bestselling author, keynote speaker, and co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, says:

“People can’t live up to the expectations they don’t know have been set for them.”

How true.  

That is one of the reasons we are so passionate about the Position Agreements we help our clients write. After we establish values/purpose, we create a powerful and inspiring vision (a clear picture of the future). Then we build the organizational chart necessary to fulfill that future. Then and only then, do we start creating the essential and powerful clear expectations found in Position Agreements. 

While we are pretty convicted about all the things we do with our clients, we are pretty convinced that if someone skipped all the others steps in our roadmap, and just implemented Position Agreements throughout their company, it would completely change the company. 

We refer to them as "job descriptions on steroids."

Many jobs don’t even have job descriptions. The companies that do have them share the document with new hires but then usually don't refer to them again. The need to replace an exiting employee often creates a frantic search to locate the elusive document.

Position Agreements are living and active. They are a signed agreement between employer and employee. They clarify the overarching results expected of every employee and list the possible strategic and tactical steps required to accomplish that result. They include standards for how the individual’s performance will be measured and the company standards that every employee is expected to uphold.

They include reporting relationships both up and down and link a leader’s responsibility to making sure all their direct reports fulfill their results as well. They end with a signature and a joint commitment of the employee to accomplish their result and the manager’s commitment to do everything in their power to make sure they do.

They become the foundation for healthy employee engagement, a frequently referenced true north for everyone, and the template for regular and highly invigorating reviews.

The integrity of powerfully articulating clear expectations cannot be overstated.  I love what one of the leaders of one of our member companies said at a meeting last week…

“For a leader to be disappointed in the performance of an employee when you haven’t clearly spelled out your expectations is cruel."

                                                               ― Todd Jarvis

And it is not only about doing the right thing by the people you employ, but is also the path to wildly better performance.


  • Are you clear about what you are expecting from your employees?
  • Are they clear?
  • How much do you think things would improve if everyone had real clarity on expectations?