I'm moving to a new company, with a new team lead. I find that this is a great time to set our mutual expectations from each other, to help us both start the role on the right foot.

Do you have ideas what expectations I should set from him? In what areas should I determine his expectations from me?

  • Is this "expectation setting talk"* some policy or procedure of the company or some better term for task allotment?.I can understand this talk with your boss. Id imagine expectations keep changing based on office dynamic, performance ,work schedules ,tenure,skill.
    – Aditya P
    Apr 3, 2011 at 15:35
  • @Aditya - not policy, I just thought it's a good idea. On more than one ocaision in the past, I ran into situations where me and a boss/colleague/"underling" had some conflict because we simply didn't understand what each of us was expecting from one another. BTW, what's a better than for someone I managed other than "underling" (sorry, I just couldn't think of a word)
    – ripper234
    Apr 3, 2011 at 15:45
  • Minion, peon, grunt... oh wait, you mean more respectful? In that context, I'd have said boss/colleague/direct report.
    – pdr
    Apr 3, 2011 at 15:54
  • @pdr - direct report, got you. I haven't heard of this expression before.
    – ripper234
    Apr 3, 2011 at 16:23

4 Answers 4


This was the best advice I was given when I did my stint as a Team Lead.

These are the 3 questions that anyone who reports to you want to know 
the answer to at all times. If they know the answer to these - you are doing 
a great job :

1. What do you want me to do ?
2. When do you want it ?
3. How am I doing ?

If you can get you Team Lead to think about these 3 seemingly "simple" questions then he might simply be the best team lead you have ever had - at least when it comes to managing expectations.


First, BRAVO in taking charge. While he may be the team lead, you are a professional, and your question shows exactly that.

Clear Expectations. You need to understand what he wants. You need him to understand that you're trying to give him what he wants, but that he needs to articulate expectations.

I've been utterly astounded at the mess that can result without these expectations: When the company wants predictability, and NOT productivity, you need to provide that (e.g., your schedule time estimates should be three-standard-deviations). Medical systems and defense contracting projects are like that. When the company wants innovation, and is willing to forgive many sins (schedule, features, etc.), you need to embrace/understand the industry and think creatively.

Seriously: Clear expectations by both sides help ensure you, as a professional, deliver what the company wants.

I've seen situations where the developer delivered an anti-gravity device that generates free energy and makes hot sandwiches using only rain water, and the company was pissed that it was done in analog, not digital. (At the time, they asked for a toaster that would fit bagels.)

  • +1 for predictability vs productivity. I've seen some action along this axis before, and it's important to determine where the dial is.
    – ripper234
    Apr 4, 2011 at 5:37

I would suggest that you sit down and find out what his expectations are first. Then take time to think about whether you find any part of that unacceptable. The only thing I would set as an expectation up front is regular (not often, but pre-planned) one-to-ones where you get chance to talk about things that aren't working out, preferably in an informal environment.

Edit: Agree with your comment, but positive feedback rarely takes much time. Added link above about good 1-to-1s.

  • +1 for one-on-ones. And don't talk just about things that aren't working out! You should get and give positive feedback as well.
    – ripper234
    Apr 3, 2011 at 15:46

What kind of power/influence does this new lead have? If it's enough, you might want to rate the company on the Joel Test and find out what he can do or plans to do about the company's score.

Then you can be sure (as pdr points out) that he plans to have on-on-ones. In those meetings, there is plenty of good things to bring up listed here.

  • Don't worry about the company, it's Google. I don't know this guy yet, but rating the company on the Joel Test should happen before you start working there.
    – ripper234
    Apr 3, 2011 at 16:32

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