Ask ten people at a company to log their daily responsibilities. Then ask their manager what his expectations are of them, and compare. More often than not, the two sets of expectations don’t match up. Even at organizations with high degrees of employer-employee transparency, the results are far less congruent than you’d think. And in startup scenarios (where there’s much less time for coaching and guidance), the discrepancy is often worse.
Why does this happens, and how do you address it effectively? Here are a few reasons, along with some ways to deal with them.
1. Understand that even with titles being equal, expectations are different from company to company
Many managers assume your previous employer had the same idea of what your role entails as they do. Sales is particularly prone to this type of attitude, as the expectation is often along the lines of “Just sell some s&%$ already!” Responsibilities and obligations like CRM, manager meetings, level of product knowledge, and standard follow up time for a customer request tend to fall by the wayside. But the reality is that these activities take up a good amount of a salesperson’s time, and vary drastically from organization to organization.
My proposed solution is to meet with every new hire for 1-2 hours prior to their start date and lay out exact expectations on both sides. Transparency is key, and knowing what your employee expects out of their work allows you to match up their goals with yours. It also saves you the time you would have spent trying to figure out what they want, and starts everyone off on the right foot.
2. Check-in early and often in the first few months
Many new employees are desperate to show results, so they may just try to work things out on their own. This can lead to an adverse sense of failure, as they are striving to fulfill an expectation that may be completely different from what you (their boss) expect.
One solution is to set up biweekly checkpoints for the first two months to make sure you both see eye to eye in the short and long-term. Personally, I’ve saved a lot of time by guiding news hires from the start. There’s no use in waiting for a performance meeting only to realize that the employee is way behind the eight ball.
3. Realize that when an argument or difficult conversation comes up, it is often just a miscommunication of expectations.
When one of my employees is struggling, I always ask myself, “What did I do to cause this?” I then meet with them to lay out what I want them to be doing in the day-to-day. Most of the time, that’s all they need. With their priorities in sync with my expectations, they’re able to succeed.
Frontline and mid-level employees: success is not what you deem it to be. Rather, it is what your VP or CXO expects of you. You must meet their expectations with full effort and confidence.
In sales, being good at selling is only one of your daily responsibilities. Make sure you’re fully aware of what is expected of you, and know what other people believe you expect of them. This can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary animosity and conflict down the road.
Many fights and failures can be attributed to poor management of expectations on both sides. Salespeople can be intimidated by the notion of confronting higher-ups, and managers often assume that, because they came from a similar role, new hires are fully aware of their responsibilities. In the end, the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page is to check in regularly and approach difficult conversations with a transparent attitude. If you find yourself confronting failure because of an expectation gap, remember that it may be as much your fault as that of the other party involved.