What Did You Expect?


By Bryan M. White

Expectations and communication are the pillars of life and business.  Keep that in mind next time you want to schedule a mancation on short notice.  Doesn’t matter if your business is mowin’ lawns or splittin’ atoms.  Likewise, doesn’t matter how great your service, how best in class your product or how seemingly innocent and PG-13 your itinerary – if you do not communicate clearly or you fail to effectively set and manage expectations you are destined for failure.  Enjoy your weekends, honey-do handymen.

Given my propensity to fail here in the past, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.  Here are four important things to keep in mind as you communicate expectations.

  • Understanding your audience – who and how many are they and what do they care about?  Don’t even attempt to set expectations with anyone without first understanding who you’re talking to and what is important/unimportant to them.  Trying to do so is sure to cost you the deal and/or reserve you place on the couch near the fitting room at the mall.  Ask questions, let them do the talking – the more you gain here the better.  If there are multiple decision makers involved don’t assume they are aligned with each other (if they aren’t this may spell out advantage you).
  • Defining requirements.  Now that you’ve gotten to know the players you’re ready to play the game.  With your objectives in mind (in mind is key – what you want/need doesn’t matter yet) go about understanding what they want or need.  Sounds easy – you know what you can/can’t do (insert want as needed here), right?  Not so fast friend – this may be the single most overlooked or rushed item on our list – don’t assume what you can do is what they want or need.  As before – ask questions.  What is truly REQUIRED and what is icing on that cake?
  • Be prepared to negotiate.  In business, you’re at the table because you have something or can do something they can’t.  You are, in some way, ‘the expert’.  Play that card here and control the conversation.  Set the expectation or ensure the expectation they have is realistic.  WARNING: the ‘expert’ play doesn’t work in your domestic boardroom (unless she’s into that). Chances are you are far better off not playing that card.  At home, defer.  Playing that expert card is only gonna set her off and put you in the express lane to your local home improvement outlet (not the tools section either Tim – Uuuuhhhh aarrruuuu? ).  That said, there is some parallel to the conversations – “if I…would you….”.
  • Give a little get a little.  Over the course of your negotiation you may need to sacrifice something, especially at home.  Come with a list of items you are prepared to forfeit to get what you want.  If the beer at that ball game isn’t worth folding a few fitted sheets then it’s not that important to you – set your DVR.

Feeling empowered?  You are just as likely to be scoffing and rolling your eyes (if you’re still reading).  This isn’t splitting atoms – it’s interpersonal communication 101; but you might be surprised how many people fail here and fail again and again.  Remember – it’s not about you, people like to talk about themselves, the more you give the more you get, do as you say and don’t over promise.  Enjoy the fishing trip, Jeremy Wade – watch out for river monsters.


BW2-HS-2Bryan White is an experienced talent acquisition professional passionate about search strategy, candidate sourcing and recruiting technology.   He leads ReachingTalent, a division of Novotus – an Austin based recruitment process outsourcing company.  When Bryan isn’t geeking out on recruiting and search technology he enjoys traveling, running, riding and the ‘occasional’ craft beer.

Find Bryan on Twitter at -> @bmwatx @reachingtalent


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