Clearly Communicate Performance Expectations to Build Trust

By Chris Mulligan, TalentKeepers

From an employee’s perspective, nothing is more important than a leader they can trust.  Often employees say they want a leader who “has their back” or is their “advocate” with others within the organization.

Central to building this level of trust with team members is not surprising them with new or changing performance requirements.  However, the pace of business today requires organizations and leaders to frequently adjust to changing opportunities and challenges. Leaders who are able to effectively communicate changes to performance expectations and the reasons behind these changes have teams who adapt their performance more quickly and maintain higher levels of team member engagement.

Use these tips to ensure you have clearly set performance expectations:

  • Begin by asking your team members to describe their current performance expectations.
  • Listen for accuracy and discuss any differences you hear so you correct the performance expectations in these areas.
  • Ask your team members what you could start, stop, or continue doing in the future to avoid missed expectations going forward.

Use these tips when changes to performance expectations are necessary:

  • First, acknowledge that you are making a change to the team member’s performance expectations and clearly explain the changed expectations.
  • Explain the business needs which are driving this change.  Be sure to use “we” instead of “they” when describing the reason for the change in order to align yourself with the senior leadership team, demonstrate your support for the change, and avoid blaming others for the change.
  • Emphasize that the ability of the team member to deliver the new performance requirements has a direct impact on the employee, the team’s performance, and the organization’s performance.
  • Ask your team member to describe the new performance requirements, listen for accuracy, and correct as appropriate.

Discussion Question:  Describe a time when your organization or department went through a change that impacted the performance expectations for your team. How did you communicate the change to your team members? What went well and what would you have done differently?

Christopher Mulligan is CEO at TalentKeepers. Chris has over 30 years of experience in the human resources industry, the majority of which has been in the employee engagement, selection, assessment, and retention arena. He is a national speaker and published author on the subject of employee engagement and retention including a book “Talent Keepers: How Top Leaders Engage and Retain Their Best Employees” published by Wiley in 2019. He may be reached at  

TalentKeepers® is celebrating 19 years of providing award-winning employee engagement and retention solutions to help companies around the globe increase their performance. We’re a recognized leader in innovative onboarding tools, employee engagement surveys that drive growth and accountability, HRCI and SHRM certified training for HR professionals, unique eLearning leadership programs, teambuilding tools, and much more. Twice we have won HR Executive Magazine’s Product of the Year award. Re-energize your efforts and expect more from your engagement and retention partner. Contact us today at  Visit our website at