Agreements, Expectations, and Hope

An essential part of leadership is to set, communicate, and monitor behavior standards. In my work with high performance organizations, I have found that one of the quickest ways to improve project and strategy execution, is to focus on new behavior standards around agreements.

A good agreement has four parts:

  1. All parties involved acknowledge the agreement. For example: “It should have been done; after all I have sent them an email with the action request last week” is a typical sign of a lousy agreement.
  2. It’s clear what specific success of the agreement would look like. For example: If you agree to research something, you also need to agree on what the outcome of your research would look like. This can be a report, a verbal feedback, a summary email, etc. 
  3. The agreement is time specific. If you haven’t set a date when something needs to be done, you don’t work with agreements, but you work with hope.
  4. It includes an agreement escalation step. This means if circumstances change and somehow people can’t make the agreement, how would you like them to act? For example: “If we agree to deliver something on Friday, I would like to hear immediately if it becomes clear that you won’t be able to make it. Don’t wait to inform me until after the Friday deadline of the agreement has passed.”


These four standards create the difference between a high performance culture which works with agreements, and a low performance culture which thinks it works with agreements, but in reality works with expectations instead. 

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Yevhenii Dubinko

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