Excellent leaders help their teams by clearly and specifically defining the actions, timing and results they expect from others and from themselves. For each member of your team, make certain you communicate the 3W’s (What, Who and When).

We use a very similar format with our coaching clients to help them drive millions of dollars in improvement. The power is in its simplicity. To ensure clear expectations when using the 3W form, identify only one “Who” per action. This will avoid “two-headed monsters” since a “We” is unowned and undone.

This simple 3W form is even more powerful when you carry it with you as a mental template to bring closure to daily conversations and interactions.


Although aligning on clear expectations can be tedious, if you take the necessary time to do it, you will end up spending less time dealing with performance problems and more time executing your plan. A broad and persuasive series of studies confirms that specificity of goals dramatically increases the likelihood of success.

For example, in one study, participants were asked to write a report on how they spent Christmas Eve, and then to write that report within two days after Christmas Eve. Half of the participants were required to specify when and where within those two days they intended to write the report. The other half was not required to give specifics. Among those who had to provide specifics, 71 percent handed the reports in on time. Only 32 percent of the second group did so.

The learning:  Use specifics, specifically the 3 W’s, to boost accountabilty and performance for your team.


“Lee and Julie deliver powerful lessons. As inspirational as it is practical. A vital tool for leaders at any career stage. An extraordinary book!” 

Marshall Goldsmith, The Thinkers 50  #1 Leadership Thinker in the World