Mastering the Art of Delivering Clear Expectations and Effective Feedback

Are you feeling worn out and ready to fire employees because you repeatedly see performance problems, and errors and find yourself cleaning up and repairing problems after hours at work? Are you experiencing quiet quitting of once-promising talent hires?

There is a way to turn this situation around, where you stop doing the busy work, employees become empowered with the skills and training to do their jobs well and you get to focus on the leadership priorities in your own role. 

Why Leadership Effectiveness Matters

In 2022, Zenger &  Folkman performed a study on quiet quitting. They surveyed over 15,000 employees and over 3500 leaders, with markers for over 60 leadership behaviors. What they found was the most effective leaders had the lowest percentage of employees wanting to quit and leave the company.

Here are a few of the key findings:

  • Communicating and creating a sense of purpose and how the employee’s role contributes to the company’s overall goals, objectives, and success, converts to motivated, committed employees. 
  • You can decrease turnover by investing in your employees through training and development, setting your direct report up for career success, not just better job performance. 
  • Change outdated processes, eliminate busy work, innovate, and design workplace roles and tasks that align with the company’s goals and objectives.

The Clear Expectations and Feedback Model

The model I am presenting here is based on 2-way communication: collaborative problem solving with open communication between the employee and the manager. Here we are focusing on 2 elements (feedback & expectations) that leaders (managers) can use to work to improve feedback with employees. 

This model is not a set-it-and-forget approach. Only addressing expectations and feedback once a year during a performance review is not going to get you results. This needs to be an ongoing conversation, daily, where you are telling and showing people how they can improve and pointing out what they are doing well. This creates clarity and as Brené Brown says, “Clarity is kindness.” 

We can encourage managers to use clear expectations and effective feedback as tools for leadership growth and development.  Watch out for pitfalls though, including distractions, lack of time, or a belief that your employees shouldn’t need “constant” feedback.  As an employer you have a responsibility to focus on the development of your employees and if it takes daily check-ins, do it.

Let’s look at how you can put this communication model into practice.

1. Use Feedback and Setting Expectations as Accountability Tools

Accountability occurs when employees contribute, take ownership and actively participate in meetings, communication, and project tasks. Accountability creates progress in goal achievement, learning and development, innovation, and motivation which results in success for the individual, team, and company.

What practices create accountability:

  • Provide detail and examples of what needs to be done and if changes need to be made to improve upon past performance. 
  • Document progress. This can serve as data and metrics to assess qualifications and performance for future employee promotion.
  • In the future, a manager can use feedback to tie present actions to future advancements, areas of growth, and needed employee development.
  • Can be used to motivate and communicate a clear target for what actions need to happen to move towards company goal attainment and success.
  • Individual employee goals and expectations are decided between manager and employee to ensure resources, development, and learning are implemented to support accountability.

It is part of human nature that a mutually agreed-on target can be described in different ways by each person. As a manager and leader, ask yourself this question, how do I create a clear target for my employee? The employee will have their own perspective. How can the manager make sure the two align?

Ask, “In your mind, what does success look like in this?” Ensure you and your employee clearly communicate and respond to expectations and feedback for clarity moving forward. 

2. Enhance Development Through the Use of Examples and Facts

In order to teach, and for the employee to learn and grow, management’s instruction needs to be specific, observable, and measurable. To help employees understand what is being asked of them, clarity is essential. It can be easy to present an idea that is clear in the manager’s mind but it needs to be delivered in a way that will be perceived correctly by the employee.

This is where examples and facts come in.

One day a restaurant manager notices an employee not loading the dishwasher the way the manager expected. The manager could say “You are doing it wrong!”, then take over, feeling frustrated, and fix it. Another option is “I noticed you are loading the dishwasher a different way than is in the company training manual. I would like to show you the company’s standard way of doing it, as it saves time, can load more dishes and will make your job easier. You may not have had the instruction you needed before.”

As you can see, opinions and generalizations are not powerful teaching tools.  Facts with some observations can be combined to be more useful.  Also, if the employee can see that mastering a particular skill can lead to advancement in the future, that, too may prove to be motivational.

3. Practice The 4-Step Model for Delivering Feedback

This model is very useful to design and prepare giving constructive feedback. There are other models to use for conflict resolution, but this one is suitable for providing feedback. 

*There is one caveat to using this model – if there is conflict, consider bringing in an outside facilitator for additional assistance.

The 4-Step Model

  1. Use facts – what actions & behaviors were observed? (No judgment here!)
  2. Explore intent versus impact. Ask about intention, but compare it with the impact.
  3. Commit to a solution. Together determine what specific future action the person will commit to doing.
  4. Follow up. Plan to follow up with this person to support their efforts to engage in future action.

4. Emphasize the Use of a Growth Mindset

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is being open-minded to feedback and expectations. It is not going on the defense, refusing to listen, or preparing an argument. Listening first, and participating in a discussion to see how to move forward is a productive approach to development. Investing in relationship building by both parties, the manager and employee will illicit willingness and clarity to build solutions and design a positive path forward. In addition, learning and development will be enhanced by a growth mindset.

Author Carol Dweck explains that employees who choose hard work, accept input from others, and practice a strategic approach to their growth and development, achieve more than a person with a rigid mindset. Employees who are learning-oriented, communicate their needs and wants, and engage with coworkers and management in a collaborative way contribute to building a healthy company culture.


Mastering the art of providing clear expectations and feedback takes practice. Today we’ve looked at how two-way communication between managers and employees can be utilized in a healthy, growth-oriented manner. It can be used as an accountability tool. Clear and effective feedback and instruction can be accomplished by providing examples and facts and following the four-step model. Equally important is having a growth mindset for both participants.

Now that you have practical tools and steps to build clear expectations and feedback, what can you do to improve communication in your company? Does training need to be implemented, and do conversations need to happen more often? Those are a few ideas to get you started on your way to success. 

Additional Resources

Detert, J & Burris, E. (2016). “Don’t let your brain’s defense mechanisms thwart effective feedback”. Harvard Business Review.

“Receiving and giving effective feedback”. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. Accessed July 11, 2023.

Schwartz, T. (2018). “Create a growth culture, not a performance-obsessed one”. Harvard Business Review

Is there conflict occurring in your office? Are you tired and frustrated that no one is listening or doing as they were told to do? Do you feel like you need a vacation and hope when you come back your staff has sorted it out?

If you need specialized, skilled business guidance to assist you in designing and implementing positive change in your company, click the button below now for a Discovery Call. Then when you do go on vacation, you won’t be worried about what you are returning to at the office when you get back. 

Join us this month of July for our Lunch and Learn topic – to talk more about setting clear expectations and feedback with employees in your family business. Click the link HERE to attend on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, @ 12 pm EST.

Next month’s topic for August: Coach Your Team to Greatness – Understand the Difference Between Managing & Coaching Your Employees. Join us on Tuesday, August 29th at 12 pm EST. We will be talking about how to coach your team to greatness!

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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