How many times have you went down the path of meeting with someone, either a client or an employee, to discuss services or work performance and come to what you thought was a mutual agreement only to be let down later? Doesn’t this just fire you up? We walk away feeling defeated, confused, and like we wasted a bunch of our precious time. No one wants to feel this way. So how do you prevent this situation from happening?
There are several things to consider, especially if you have noticed a trend in this type of behavior from your clients or subordinates. First, have you set clear expectations…in writing? Verbal agreements don’t carry much weight. Honestly. People walk away, get to thinking, and decide they want to change their mind. Well, guess what? They can and because there is nothing in writing…their really is no agreement.
If you’re a small business owner you must protect your time. It is precious and you can’t waste it on agreements that don’t work out. Get the agreement in writing with signatures. And if you are a supervisor and have employees, the same applies, especially when it comes to providing performance feedback. It must be acknowledged in writing. Otherwise, it was just a conversation with no record and no accountability.
The second area you want to review is whether the expectations are very clear. Can you apply the SMART principle? Are your expectations Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed? If not, then you need to make them that way. People will inevitably disappoint you if you can not…do not…provide SMART expectations.
Small business owners need to provide Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed objectives with their clients…in writing. This eliminates confusion and creates focus for the business relationship. And supervisors who take the time to write out Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed goals for their subordinates are going to reap the benefits much more than not because the employee knows exactly what to do and in most cases employees, in fact, want to do a good job for their employer.
Lastly, if you are already providing SMART expectations in writing, are you allowing clients or employees to flex on those? Meaning, you let them change the rules on you. If you know you do this — STOP! You’re setting yourself up for a train wreck. You can’t expect people to meet your expectations, client or employees, if you go willy nilly on them. It sends the message that you don’t take a stand and that you don’t really know what you want.
Stand your ground. Expect people to meet your expectations — even better expect them to exceed your expectations. As the leader of your organization, as the leader of your people, hold people accountable for doing what they say they’ll do. Put those SMART expectations in writing and don’t flex on them.
And one final note…if all else fails, don’t beat yourself up about it. Re attack, but more importantly, learn from it and do better next go-round. Some of the hardest lessons in business, and life in general, are our best lessons.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on expectation management? Do you find this challenging? How do you manage others’ expectations and keep them accountable?