The Power of Clear Expectations—Identifying What and Who

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Each of these one-word questions can push organizational leaders and their team members toward the clarity they need to achieve success. In this post I’d like to focus on who and what.

When leaders set clear expectations, outcomes are much more likely to hit the mark. And it’s just as important for leaders to set milestones en route to the outcome. Doing so keeps people on track by helping them get the support and redirection they need when they need it, which sets them up for success so that they do their best work and hit their deadlines.

At this point it is helpful for a coach to ask what questions, such as:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What is the scope?
  • What will it cover?
  • What is left out?
  • What are we not doing?

Stating clear expectations, however, is just the start. The next step is for leaders to create clear agreements with others about what is expected. This is where who questions come into play. Let me share a recent example.

I coached a leader who acknowledged that when setting expectations, her team often sees things differently than she does. So instead of just addressing what, she also expands her discussions with team members by including who questions. Some great who questions include:

  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Who will talk to whom?
  • Who will report to whom?
  • Who will follow up with whom?
  • Who will be left holding the bag?

By using both what and who questions, leaders can provide better clarity, accountability, and agreement—all of which provide the foundation for shared success!

Rather than be annoyed with team members, or just doing the work yourself, consider how a combination of what and who questions can help you fill the gap between your perspective and the perspective of others to provide clarity and shared agreement.

About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer headshotMary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D., is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 120 coaches have worked with over 15,000 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Clear Expectations—Identifying What and Who

  1. Larry Coburn, Leadership and Lean Thinking Coach USA 1-503-432-3220

    I also think it is a great time to ask WHY we have not accomplished the WHAT already? Why opens to the door to understand the obstacles, challenges, and objections we will be facing and leaders can engage others in the thinking process by asking why. The why analysis leads the way to logical actions, and then we can clarify not only what we are doing, who is doing it, but also the reasoning behind the plan. Leaders who ask these logical patterned questions lead others to think and act together.


  2. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

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