DiBona & Associates
DiBona & Associates

Cracking the Code to Productivity

04.05.23 01:00 PM By Noel DiBona

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The Role of Clear Goals & Expectations in Team Performance

Team productivity is crucial for the success of any organization. A productive team can achieve more in less time, leading to increased profitability and a competitive advantage. Additionally, a productive team can improve the overall morale and motivation of its members, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention. By prioritizing team productivity, organizations can ensure they are utilizing their resources effectively and efficiently.

Best practices to improve clarity of goals and expectations

There are several best practices leaders can use to provide clearer goals and expectations to their team members.

Here are the most impactful ways to do that:

Why are clear goals and expectations so important?

Clear goals and expectations are essential for increasing team productivity for several reasons, some of which are:

  • Providing a sense of direction and purpose for team members - When employees know what they are working towards, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work, leading to increased productivity.
  • Providing clarity on what is expected of team members - When everyone understands what they need to do and how their work contributes to the overall goals of the organization, there is less confusion and ambiguity, which leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Help prioritize tasks and allocate resources effectively - When everyone is on the same page, it's much easier to identify the most important tasks and allocate resources accordingly, which will maximize productivity.
  • Help establish accountability - It is much easier to hold employees accountable for their work when they have a clear picture of what their responsibilities and what is expected of them. This ensures everyone is doing their part to achieve the team's goals and increases productivity.

​Clearly communicate goals and expectations

Leaders MUST communicate their goals and expectations in a way that is simple, straight forward, and easy to understand.

      • Use simple language that everyone can understand.
      • Avoid using jargon or technical terms that team members may not be familiar with.
      • Keep the message simple and to the point.

What's the difference between a goal and an expectation?

Goal - desired outcome

Typically specific, measurable, and time-bound.

Expectation - what is required to achieve that outcome

Behaviors, actions, or results that team members are expected to deliver in order to achieve the goal.


A goal might be to increase customer satisfaction by 20%.

The expectation might be for team members to respond to customer inquiries within 24 hours and to offer a solution to their problem.

​How can leaders communicate clear goals and expectations?

  • Repeat Key Messages. Repetition will reinforce key messages and ensure that team members understand the message. Leaders should consistently repeat key messages throughout their communication to help ensure that they are understood.
  • Use visual aids. Charts, diagrams, and graphs can help to convey complex information in a clear and easy-to-understand way. Leaders can use visual aids to supplement verbal communication.
  • Actively listen and encourage questions. This helps to ensure that team members understand the message and can ask for clarification if needed. Be open to receiving your teammates feedback and make them feel understood by actively listening. Active listening requires the leader to be fully present in the moment and to set aside their own thoughts and judgments in order to truly understand their teammate’s perspective.
  • Provide context. This helps team members understand the importance of the message and how it relates to their work. Leaders should explain why the message is important and how it impacts the team and the organization as a whole.
  • Use an active voice in communication. This makes the message clearer and easier to understand. Active voice puts the focus on the action being taken, while passive voice puts the focus on the object of the action.

Leaders should check for understanding to ensure that team members have understood the message. They can do this by asking team members to repeat the message or by asking questions to test their understanding.

​Use SMART goals






By setting SMART goals, leaders can provide their team members with clear and specific targets to work towards, which helps to increase motivation and productivity.


A project manager leading an important project that is having issues with containing costs and is running late on schedule:

Specific:  Reduce project costs and get the project back on schedule.

Measurable:  Reduce project costs by 10% and get the project back on schedule within the next 3 months.

Achievable:  Identify cost-saving opportunities through a thorough analysis of project expenses and determine where to make cuts while maintaining quality and project standards. Develop a revised project timeline and schedule that considers any necessary changes to the project plan.

Relevant:  Reducing project costs and getting the project back on schedule will benefit the organization by improving profitability and customer satisfaction.

Time-bound:  Achieve the cost reduction and get the project back on schedule within the next 3 months.

Overall goal - Reduce project costs by 10% and get the project back on schedule within the next 3 months by identifying cost-saving opportunities, analyzing expenses, and making necessary changes to the project plan.

​Provide regular feedback

Leaders MUST provide regular feedback to their team members, both positive and constructive, to help them understand how their work is contributing to the team's goals and where they can improve.

How to Use 1:1’s to Improve Team Success

​Empower your team

This helps increase engagement and ownership, leading to increased productivity. Give your team autonomy and decision-making authority over their work by:

      • Fostering an environment of collaboration and communication
      • Delegating decision-making authority to team members
      • Embracing failure as a learning opportunity
      • Encouraging team members to take risks and try new approaches

Leaders will give their team autonomy and decision-making authority. Building trust, enabling team members to make informed decisions, empowering team members to make decisions within their areas of responsibility, getting team members more invested in the outcome of their work.

​Don’t forget about your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Leaders need to use KPIs to provide their team members with clear targets and track their progress towards those targets.

Look for both positive trends and negative trends.

Positive trends - help organizations identify areas of strength and build on them

Negative trends - signal areas where improvement is needed.


If an organization's customer retention rate has been steadily increasing over the past several months, this could be a positive trend that indicates that the organization is doing a good job of keeping customers satisfied. 

On the other hand, if the organization's customer acquisition cost (CAC) has been steadily increasing, this could be a negative trend that signals that the organization needs to find more cost-effective ways of acquiring new customers.

To track KPIs effectively, organizations can use a variety of tools and techniques, such as:

      • Data visualization tools to create charts, graphs, and other visual representations of their KPI data, making it easier to identify trends and patterns.
      • Data analysis software to analyze large datasets to identify correlations and patterns that may not be immediately apparent.
      • Statistical analysis techniques, such as regression analysis and hypothesis testing, can be used to identify significant trends and patterns in KPI data.
      • Organizations can compare their KPI data to industry benchmarks or best practices to identify areas where they are performing well or where improvements can be made.

​Providing resources and support

Leaders MUST provide their team members with the resources and support they need to achieve their goals. This can include training, tools, and access to information and expertise.

​The proof is in the numbers

Research has shown that leaders who provide clear goals and expectations to their teams are more likely to see improvements in productivity, engagement, and overall performance.

Employees who understand their organization’s goals and how their work contributes to those goals are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t (Study by Harvard Business Review).

Find out what disengaged employees are costing your organization.

Additionally, employees who receive regular feedback and coaching from their leaders are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged than those who receive no feedback.

Leaders who give their teams more autonomy and decision-making authority have also been shown to see improvements in productivity and engagement. According to a study by Gallup, teams with high levels of employee engagement are 21% more productive than teams with low engagement levels. Giving team members more control over their work can also increase their sense of ownership and accountability, leading to higher levels of motivation and commitment.

In fact, a study by MIT Sloan Management Review found that organizations that practice decentralized decision-making and give employees more autonomy are more innovative and adaptable than those with more centralized decision-making processes.