Meeting expectations

    HOW TO

  • Foster growth and development at every level of your career or organization
  • Maximize employee development thanks to a structured and clear multi-stage process

Joining an organization or an ongoing project always creates some confusion, as to what exactly our role and our expected input are meant to be. It can be hard to adjust on the factory shop-floor, but it’s harder still in more abstract functions such as analysis or management.

As far as research is concerned, virtually all tasks and responsibilities fall within the scope of these two roles – managerial and analytical. Staff may assume one or the other, or combine both, and likely will become more proficient and engaged over time. Although most job offers stake out precise “terms of reference,” spelling out the prior experience and existing skills required to be operational, a work-environment centred on learning, creativity and innovation (as is the case with Synaps) will prioritise attitude over aptitude. You only know so much, no doubt. But with the right frame of mind, there is virtually no limit to how much you can know.

A work-environment centered on learning will prioritize attitude over aptitude.

The tables below reflect an attempt to clarify expectations, facilitate the integration process, and increase transparency and accountability at all levels – to include leadership roles – within an organisation like Synaps. These grids are not set in stone; rather they offer a template that can easily be transformed to suit an organisation’s needs.

The tables compile basic requirements for analysis and management roles, at different stages of proficiency.

  • Level 1 describes a base-line for entry-point positions. In other words the items listed represent mandatory commitments, not aspirational goals.
  • Level 2 applies to mid-ranking positions, which tend to be as crucial as they are hard to fill.
  • Level 3 outlines a realistic endgame, whereby staff not only cease to need further mentoring and management, but assume a leadership role in transforming the organisation.

Naturally, all items featuring in a more junior level are expected to have been fully understood and acquired in a more senior level. A more nuanced gradient would include intermediate levels (1.5 and 2.5, say), representing additional transitional stages, in which staff have checked at least half of the requirements relevant to graduating to the next level.


Level 1

  • Submits his/her work and ideas for feedback, overcoming any inhibition regarding reception
  • Seeks opportunities to conduct in-depth fieldwork, especially outside any existing comfort zone
  • Systematically types and shares fieldwork notes
  • Is keen to learn and applies him/herself to any task providing an opportunity to do so, regardless of pre-existing skills and formal responsibilities
  • Proactively raises all problems impeding work and thinks about solutions
  • Takes into account manager’s requests, criticism and advice, or challenges them explicitly
  • Pays attention to detail in all tasks to ensure timeliness, consistency and proper presentation
  • Shows interest in, and voices opinions on, every aspect of Synaps
  • Builds in time to acquire and strengthen a robust general culture
  • Finds ways of regularly helping colleagues
  • Takes ownership of office facilities when available

Level 2

  • Proactively develops a work plan around an assigned project and seeks input and approval
  • Conducts fieldwork autonomously while seeking regular feedback
  • Drafts documents that are immediately relevant to a target audience, logically structured and systematically fact-checked and sourced
  • Engages with a partner’s expectations and formulates ideas proactively to satisfy or renegotiate them
  • Manages his/her time effectively and realistically to meet deadlines or proactively suggests adjustments
  • Factors in manager’s constraints in his/her own time management
  • Masters the literature pertaining to his/her field of research and makes time to expand his/her cultural horizon
  • Grounds analysis in a lived experience of the topics he/she is invested in

Level 3

  • Fully grasps Synaps’ methodology and philosophy, and applies it in an unmediated relationship with a partner
  • Conducts fieldwork with minimal supervision
  • Drafts analysis requiring limited editing
  • Designs efficient solutions to emerging problems and seeks approval before implementing them
  • Refrains from any sense of entitlement, and continuously challenges his/her own certitudes
  • Recognizes how much he/she has to learn from more junior analysts, while seeking every opportunity to support them
  • Apprehends new projects as opportunities to learn, acquire new skills & introduce innovations
  • Builds on an extensive culture and expertise, making time for more eclectic intellectual commitments
  • Fully understands, anticipates & mitigates the risks entailed by any particular project and seeks only approval on implementation


Level 1

  • Is willing to learn about key processes and take responsibility with no prior experience or training
  • Proactively seeks to acquire relevant knowledge and skills using available sources, or requesting specific resources for vocational training
  • Takes ownership of office facilities and ensures their effective functioning
  • Takes the lead and manages all organizational aspects and teamwork-related tasks on a particular project
  • Spontaneously updates manager on progress, hurdles, and the way forward
  • Pays extreme attention to detail in all managerial tasks and particularly on financial matters, relations with partners, and support to surrounding staff
  • Contributes ideas to the organisation’s business model and fundraising strategies

Level 2

  • Masters all key processes within Synaps
  • Apprehends projects as a full cycle, from defining priorities to managing expectations through to designing and implementing a communications strategy around outcomes
  • Manages a team to deliver satisfactory products within the agreed-upon timeframe, and proactively discusses any impediment, while suggesting solutions
  • Fully accepts responsibility for all shortcomings
  • Supports, protects and promotes surrounding staff, unless it is fully established that the work relationship is detrimental to Synaps and all staff concerned
  • Manages conflicts respectfully
  • Stands by his/her views with Synaps’ best interests at heart, even if they conflict with the views held by Synaps’ leadership
  • Develops sustainable new programs
  • Leverages his/her network for effective fundraising covering the costs of activities he/she is involved in
  • Identifies and cultivates talent that could be hired

Level 3

  • Articulates a vision for growing Synaps that builds momentum among staff
  • Displays a proven ability to resource such a vision, either on the basis of prior fundraising or by developing a business plan
  • Truly understands the organization’s values and factors them in, or challenges them convincingly, in pushing such a vision
  • Acts transparently, encourages pushback, seeks input, strives to build consensus, but doesn’t hesitate at decision-making and responsibility-taking
  • Assumes overall leadership while always encouraging staff into the limelight
  • Strives to identify and invest in the particular talent of all staff
  • Empowers, delegates and trusts all staff unless proven wrong in a specific case
  • Ends, decisively and responsibly, any work relationship demonstrably detrimental to Synaps and all staff concerned
  • Knows everyone within Synaps and builds genuine relationships
  • Keenly analyses trends within all fields and industries relevant to Synaps

28 October 2016

Illustration credit: Kurhaus Wiesbaden red carpetby Martin Fisch on Wikipedia public domain.

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