Clear Instructions, Clear Results

Excerpt from the article

  1. Be Clear About the Results You Want

Build two-way trust by being very clear about the results you want, the expectations you have and the boundaries of authority your employee has within the work they are doing. Tell them you are there to support them and that you are confident they will get the result you need in a way that matches the values of your organization. Then, be there when they need you. Otherwise, get out of the way! – Marguerite LeBlanc, The Leaders’ Kitchen Inc.


At a news conference in 1952, Florence Chadwick described her struggles swimming from Catalina Island to the shore of mainland California the day before by saying, “All I could see was the fog….I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it (Alcorn, 2010).” Florence Chadwick was no stranger to difficult swims and challenging conditions in the water. Not too many years prior to this, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. However, that 15-hour swim from Catalina Island to California brought forth a particular fog that prevented her from seeing clearly. The tragedy of this story was not that Chadwick failed to reach her goal, but it was only when she quit that she realized that the California shore was less than half a mile away.

When the path forward is unclear, employees can feel lost, frustrated, and even start to doubt themselves. Clarity in leadership is essential. Leaders must be able to communicate a clear vision, set of expectations, and provide effective feedback.

Communicating a clear vision begins with creating a sense of shared purpose with all employees. Ajay Aggrawal, an information technology project manager for Oracle, says, “You have to connect to what’s meaningful to others and create the belief that people can achieve something grand. Otherwise, people may fail to see how their work is meaningful and their contributions fit into the big picture (Kouzes & Posner, 2017).” Once a manager can foster a shared purpose among the team, he or she can explain the employee’s role within this vision and ask for their opinions.  An easy step in establishing roles could be gathering the team together and having each member write out all their duties and tasks they are responsible for. Once the team agrees and is aware of how each person will contribute to the overall vision, leaders can be the first to model the way forward by setting a positive example.

Similar to communicating a vision, when a leader shares expectations, it is important for that leader to involve his or her employees. Instead of simply throwing out a list of expectations, explaining the reasoning behind those expectations will have a greater impact. Whenever someone understands the “why” behind a process, improved attitudes and increased collaboration follow. In addition to explaining the “why” behind the expectation, leaders must ensure that their expectations are attainable and measurable. Employees should be able to examine the desired outcome, and then work their way back to setup up tangible goals along the way to help them reach that outcome.

Part of providing effective feedback is establishing where the employee currently is regarding their performance and development. Just as parks and shopping malls have a “You Are Here” marker on their maps, leaders must make their employees aware of where they are and where they need to be. However, this can be done with compassion and with a focus on the employee’s behavior rather than their character. For example, do not inform employees that they are lazy; instead, inform them that they may not have spent enough time on a project. After specific feedback has been given, make sure to check back in with employees a few weeks later to see if they have any questions or need additional support. This extra step can help employees feel like they are not forgotten about, and that the leader will partner with them to achieve success.

Not able to let her failure to swim from Catalina Island to California stop her, Florence Chadwick gave this swim another try two months later in 1952. This time she was able to complete it despite the presence of the same pesky fog that encapsulated her the first time around. What was the difference between the first and the second swim? On the second swim, Chadwick knew, understood, and could visualize her goal, and nothing was going to stop her to reach it.


Alcorn, R. (2010, January 21) Florence Chadwick and the Fog. Eternal Perspective Ministries.

Dubale, N. (2022, May 10) Florence Chadwick – KEEP YOUR GOALS IN SIGHT. Linkedin.

Forbes. (2021, April 9). 12 Techniques For Fostering Two-Way Trust With Employees.

Forbes. (2021, November 24). 13 ‘Right’ Ways For Leaders To Set Expectations With Employees.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2017). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Rose, D. (2022, October 8). How leaders can give effective feedback & drive performance. Linkedin.

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