07 Nov 2015

How Great CEOs Meet the 5 Expectations of Their Team

The Expectation of Purpose

What is the purpose of your business? To meet the expectations of you team, it has to be more than to make money. In 1970, Milton Friedman stated that the purpose of business was to ‘maximise profit for shareholders’. Much later, Jack Welch said that ‘shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world’. In the 1990’s John Elkington coined his ‘triple bottom line’ purpose of business, in what became known as the people, planet, profit model.

I am quite explicit in using the word purpose rather than vision. A vision provides the look / feel / behaviour of a future state – something to aim for. To achieve a vision you need both a destination and the desire and will to achieve it. A clear vision, free of jargon and articulated clearly, provides the reason ‘why’. Partner this with a burning desire / willingness to want to achieve that vision, and you create a purpose.

In meeting the expectation of purpose, CEO’s provide their people with a clear, articulate picture of why they work hard each day and what benefit they bring to their work, their team, their business and to the wider world. In short, they will draw people to them and their business to achieve their purpose for mutual benefit

The Expectation of Values

Common values tie people together. There is a clear expectation amongst team members that CEO’s will clearly demonstrate the company values through their personal actions and behaviours. When businesses values are directly observable through the actions of their CEO, team members are more likely to be engaged at work. A CEO who is seen to have a misalignment between their behaviour and the stated values of the business will be judged harshly, regarded poorly, and attract very few team members.

While this may seem obvious to many, CEO’s face ethical decisions daily that may questions what values they believe are important. In this sense, their actions speak louder than words. When my clients look at what causes them upset, disruption or conflict in the workplace, it is often attributed to a peer or a senior leader demonstrating a behaviour that does not match either a business or personal value.

CEO’s meet the expectations of their team by not only setting and living by a clear set of values, but also defining the distinctions on those values. Leadership, team, respect, integrity – the CEO defines the behavioural expectations of values such as these and them lives them through their own behaviours first.

The Expectation of Accountability

Not holding people to account is one of the silent killers in business. A recent survey found that more than 1 in 5 respondents took back tasks delegated by their staff more than 40% of the time. More than 50% reminded their staff to do a task 3 times or more. Further, the respondents said their staff missed the deadlines set for them 20-40% of the time.

CEO’s meet the expectations of their team by setting clear accountability structures from the top – and are demonstrated by the promises the CEO keeps. You know the symptoms – meetings never on time, deadlines pushed out, client expectations not met, reports submitted after they were due. Lack of accountability costs businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity and starts with very simple actions promised but not fulfilled. As uncomfortable as it can be to hear, the fish rots from the head.

The Expectation of Appreciation & Feedback

According to a 2016 study of over 34,000 men and women [1], 43% of female managers and 35% of male managers said they were ‘concerned about seeming mean or hurtful’ when providing feedback to their teams. Of all the managers surveyed, 25% stated they ‘don’t want them (staff) to dislike me’. But it isn’t just negative feedback that managers find hard to do. A Harvard Business Review article [2] found that more than 1 in 3 managers indicated that they don’t give positive feedback to their team members.

Several factors impact a leaders ability to provide both positive and constructive / negative feedback, most of which relate to fear. Fear of doing it badly, fear of repercussions, fear of HR, fear of not being liked, fear of ruining a relationship – all factors that inhibit a leaders ability to provide full, frank and honest feedback to the people working for them.

CEO’s meet the expectations of their team by fighting through fear and providing full and frank feedback (both positive and constructive) at the time that it is observed for the purpose of development and growth.

The Expectation of Safety & Security

When team members feel safe in their role and secure in their ability to voice an opinion both up and down the levels of a business, they will be more likely to uphold the values of the business and ensure that their peers do as well. Feeling completely safe will ensure that team members have the confidence to ‘call out’ the senior leaders on values adherence and poor decisions, rather than letting them make poor decisions and be judged accordingly. In Leaders Eat Last [3], Simon Sinek refers to this as a ‘circle of safety’, a space where people actively have their bosses back and protect all people at all levels from physical, emotional and financial harm.

Safety provides the platform from which team members hold others to account and meet their promises. It also provides CEO’s and leaders with the most valuable type of feedback, an awareness of the things they are blind to. When I served in the Air Force, in particular as the Chief Instructor of the Officers’ Training School, I could not be more keenly aware of the benefit of open, honest, transparent team members that spoke their mind for the good of you and the Unit. Sometimes this meant one of my team would politely tell me to ‘pull your head in’; often when I wanted to race to action or a solution without getting all of the facts or ideas from the team. Other times it was encouraging you to make an unpopular decision for the the future good of the team. These actions from team members require both courage and trust – courage to speak their mind on issues that are important to them and trust to know that expressing them will not be held against them – then or in the future.

CEO’s meet the expectations of their team by creating an environment of safety and security for their people. They reap the benefits of that security when their team are confident enough to get past their fears and provide full and frank feedback on the areas the CEO is blind to.

Meeting Expectations

As the CEO or senior leader of your business, have you:

  1. Clearly created and articulated the purpose of your business?
  2. Ensured clear values are alive in your business through your actions and behaviours?
  3. Set the standards for accountability (and in turn, their personal responsibility) for your team?
  4. Provided timely and abundant feedback (positive and constructive)?
  5. Created an environment in which people can speak freely about standards, values and behaviours for the good of the business without fear of consequences?

In meeting the 5 expectations of their teams, CEO’s create an environment for short and long term success, both for the business and for the individuals and teams working within it.


  1. LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. ‘Women in the Workplace 2016’
  2. Harvard Business Review. ‘Why do so many managers avoid giving praise?’, May, 2017
  3. Simon Sinek. ‘Leaders Eat Last’
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