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Leading a Team Purposefully With Established Expectations

Managing Expectations

27 May, 2021

Daniel Archer

Daniel Archer

VP of Engineering at Ritual

Daniel Archer, Vice President of Engineering at Ritual, knows that finding balance between guidance and authority is not always easy.


I think that as a leader, people look to you to make decisions and to move the conversation forward. One of the most difficult lessons that I’ve had to learn as a leader is how to bring people of intelligence together into the same space and to encourage them all to come together in a way that highlights all of their strengths simultaneously without being overbearing. The group needs to be on the same wavelength in order to be moving together cohesively.

What is the best way to set a baseline of established, concrete expectation? Ambiguity leads to confusion and to failure in my experience, especially for prolonged projects. I’ve heard it said that if you’re the leader and also the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. A true leader surrounds themselves with people who surpass their own intelligence and talent. Your role as a leader is to encourage collaboration between the best of the best, moving the group to the decisions that serve everybody—the company, the stakeholders, and all.

Actions taken

One of my most important pieces of advice is to always establish concrete expectations, whether in regard to a meeting, to a project, or anything else that my team and I wish to collaborate together on. What are their expectations? How can I weigh in? What are my expectations of them? You need to share these expectations with them so that everybody involved knows what their contribution to the group effort should look like; this ensures that everybody is on the same page at all times.

As a leader, putting in your due diligence means conducting research that informs the decisions that lead your team. This can involve consulting data, but I rely heavily on my own experience, as well. I’ve been at the helm of projects that have benefited greatly from us taking more time at the beginning to gather information, sharing our discoveries and asking for feedback. The sooner your team can align on an approach, the earlier your team can feel confident in delivering results.

Lessons learned

  • One thing that is not done nearly enough in terms of project development and leadership is asking for and sharing expectations that set a foundation for the work ahead early on.
  • As a leader, your sole focus should be on making the decisions for the group based on your experience and your best judgement. You are afforded a view of the challenges you are assigned that goes beyond their own. Your role is to clear the air of that ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Engineers are hard-wired to dissect the problem. Being a leader involves more communication. It’s okay to figure things out as a team - knowing when to ask others for more information is very important. This provides insight that supports other hard data.

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