When I first started leading teams, I would provide a list of 10 to 12 expectations in an initial meeting while spending a good 20 to 30 minutes covering each. Boy, how boring that must have been!
As I’ve developed and matured in leadership roles, the list of expectations shrank to three. I once read a study that stated when people are looking to make decisions, the optimal number of options is three. At three, they feel capable of analyzing their choices, weighing the pros and cons fairly quickly in their mind and coming to a decision without much effort.
I’ve applied this concept to multiple areas in my life and it works! For one, with the kids, it’s amazing how much easier it is to give a child two to three choices (all of which I approve) and let them make the choice. They are happy! Mom is happy! We don’t spend hours going over oodles of options. Decisions are made and we move on to action.
The same concept applies to teams and leadership effectiveness. Being new to the team, there’s much to learn about the culture, team dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses. Providing the team with a simple framework of three, helps them remember the expectations along with the intent.
What three expectations work for every leader in every setting?
- Treat others as you want to be treated. The Golden Rule taught to us when we were little and spans across centuries and cultures. We all want to be treated fairly with respect and dignity.
- Be truthful and trustworthy. Building and creating trust is essential for all good organizations and relationships. Without trust, the team can’t function effectively. We must be able to face the truth and provide the same in return.
- Work to make better. We are in an ever demanding and competitive environment. If we are not working to make our current situation better, we start falling behind in the competition. If we are working together to move forward, then we are working to become more successful.
You may be asking how can three such general expectations drive success? As you’re the new one in the room, it’s not the time to make full sweeping changes, challenge the unknown, and attempt to drive a new direction when you may not have a good understanding of all that is going on around you.
Your initial days will be best spent observing and not casting general statements of the state of things. Gather everyone’s inputs, review the data, and learn what is driving the successes and challenges of the current team.
These three expectations will not lead the team astray. They will not feel judged. They will look to you to see if you are living the three expectations yourself. Lead with action by treating the team well, extending trust to them, and working to improve current circumstances.
If you can only have three expectations, then what would you share on your first day in leading a team? What are your thoughts about these three expectations?
Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.