Setting expectations is crucial. In all relationships. Now I am not willing to help you set expectations in your personal relationships…that is on you. Lie away if you want to. Tell them you will be rich and famous and give them a life of luxury or that you are super smart only to disappoint them later…all that is on you. (It worked for me when getting my wife to say ‘yes’ – so it may work for you too.) However, I can help with setting expectations in your business communications.
Before we get started there are two things to keep in mind. First, most of these basic principles I have learned because I failed at implementing them myself many times. Second, they can also be applied to your personal relationships if you want to use them…but again, I accept no responsibility for their success. See…I am setting expectations.
There are four things to keep in mind when it comes to setting expectations effectively:
1. Begin with the end in mind – Before you enter into a partnership, hire an employee, sign a contract with a vendor, or begin a project you should know why you are doing it and how you want it to look like and operate. You have to be flexible, but you should know what success looks like. How else will you measure it or know its value? It’s hard to set expectations with someone when you do not have an end game. So…begin with what a successful relationship will
2. Be clear – I am the king of vague and jumping before I look. Well maybe not the king, but I have learned from the kings and I am at least at prince level. Like first in line for the crown. I think that is a key to being successful sometimes. Sometimes. But most of the time and especially in relationship expectations…being very clear and intentional with your communication is vital. If you are going to have deadlines do not say ‘Tuesday’. To you Tuesday may be by 8:30 in the morning so you can review the info…to someone else it may be by close of business. On projects don’t say simply say let’s call some food vendors. Have a list of types of food, who will make the contact, and when we will have answers. Be clear on the plan and the timelines. This will help cut down on frustrations and conflict.
3. Know the roles – Who will do what? Who will follow up? Who is the contact for this or that? Who unloads the truck? Who makes that call? Who will confirm the appointments? Who pays the invoices? Who will make sure it gets on the calendar? Who, who, who. Knowing who will do what, when, how and why is where a lot of expectations fall through. "I thought you were going to do that!" or "I thought you emailed them?" If roles have not been defined and tasks or expectations not set then that leaves room for things to fall through and then there is no clear direction on who needs to be doing what. Know who is supposed to do what and make sure they know it as well.
4. Follow up – So you have the end game in mind – you have been clear in your communication – everyone knows their roles and timelines – now what? Have a plan in place for follow up, reviews, and accountability. It’s your business, your sales rep, your project, your relationship….make sure there is a plan in place to push things forward, keep them on track, or at least let the other people involved know that you are engaged.
BONUS POINT – It’s your lucky day…I am giving you a bonus tip. You’re welcome. If you set expectations correctly and everyone is on board then it should be easier for the other folks involved to take ownership of their part and of the relationship. Setting expectations is not all about ‘driving’ it’s about inclusion….setting people up for success…and at the end of the day to give everyone a better chance to feel good and be productive. Setting expectations is never a one way street. Everyone has their own vision of success, needs, and wants. If you do not include, listen, and incorporate when possible you will walk a lonely road. Success is sweetest when it’s shared.
So if you are experiencing frustrations in your partnerships, with employees, with vendors, or in relationships in general you may want to try and start using the four principles above.
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Clint Powell is owner of Connect Marketing, an advertising agency in Chattanooga. He is a graduate of Carson-Newman College. He has spent years in radio advertising sales and management, built and sold a billboard company and works on a contract basis with other ad agencies writing ad copy and helping formulate strategies. Clint has worked with hundreds of local and regional companies over the years and helped them develop advertising campaigns. He believes that life is all about connections and spends his time connecting businesses and business owners to solutions. He sits on the board of Y-Cap (YMCA Community Action Program) and helps with several other non-profits. Clint currently resides in East Ridge with his wife and three children. He also host a weekly radio show focused on business and marketing – Marketing Mix Radio on US 101 The Legend @ 96.1