How to Set the Right Expectations and Lead the Charge

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Setting expectations is important in nearly every area of life. In business, executive management needs to set a clear and understandable expectation for the sales manager. The sales manager then communicates the expectation to the sales team, and the sales team communicates their expectation to the customer. It’s the sales team’s responsibility to do everything it can to then exceed expectations. This is how credibility and great customer service emerge.

In the personal side of life, meeting and exceeding expectations creates trust and integrity among your family and friends. Failing to meet expectations in any situation creates negative consequences, from feelings of helplessness to loss of relationships and jobs.  So how do you set the right expectations and make sure you meet and exceed them?

Right Means Realistic

There are two elements to setting the right expectations: research and communication. Start with research and fact finding with your team. The right expectations should be challenging but also reasonable. You don’t want to set your employees up to fail. In fact, unrealistic expectations are often cited as one of the top reasons people are unhappy with their jobs and why they feel disconnected from their managers. This creates an unhealthy company culture. Remember, unrealistic expectations not only increase employees’ stress levels, they decrease engagement and productivity.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should lower the bar and make your expectations easily achievable. Rather, structure your expectations with your team to ensure the appropriate degree of challenge. Consulting with those who will bear the grunt of the expectations creates a healthy culture of connection. In his book Connection Culture, Michael Stallard and his colleagues note that “balanced expectations actually reinforce three important elements of a strong team: vision, value and voice.” With everyone in agreement and working towards the same goals, the team feels more unified and appreciated.

Communicate Clearly and Personalize

Building expectations with your team also avoids communication pitfalls. When everyone works together, everyone knows what behaviors and results are expected – there’s no vague language, confusing emails or generalities. We’ve all heard a manager say, “we need to step it up to the next level,” but that could mean a lot of different things! Be precise and focused when creating and communicating expectations.

Personalizing the expectations to each person instead of one blanket goal also goes one step further to show your encouragement, investment and support. Consider meeting with individuals outside of the office to eliminate any distractions and make them feel more comfortable in “neutral” territory. Try to make the expectations go both ways – find out what they expect of you. Not only will this give you a good alternate perspective, but it also might give you some insight into the employee’s personality, past experiences and work ethic.

Follow Through With Everyone

Communicating the right expectations doesn’t end with creating them. Be sure to write down all the expectations and notes as clearly as possible and hand them out or send in an email as a reference. Follow up with your team and get status updates. What challenges are they having? Do they need additional resources? Do what you can to set them up for success. This shows commitment on your part, letting them know that you believe their goals are attainable, which goes a long way to keeping the team engaged (and the expectations met).

The right expectations require feedback and input from not just your team, but virtually every department in the organization. After all, meeting or missing the expectations could affect every department. This means that expectations may need to be fluid to start, with room for adjustment. This is where the communication really kicks in. But the payoff is huge.

As a professional, there’s not much worse than performing below what’s expected of you. Whether it’s missing a sales goal or failing to get your team up to speed on the latest and greatest new product, you never want to be that guy who misses the mark. But when you work with your team to lay out the right expectations, provide support and adjust when necessary, you create the environment to see sales soar.

Are you working with unrealistic expectations and unhappy sales people? Contact me to set the right expectations and see the right results: [email protected] or 815.222.3452. Or start with my 10-question Sales Agility Assessment and see how you’re doing.