What does it mean to ‘set expectations’ and why do we do it in the first place?
Setting expectations describes an agreement, verbal or in writing, between two parties where both agree to a certain outcome based on a set of parameters leading up to said outcomes. Why is it important to set expectations? We set expectations to provide direction and a recipe for success for both parties in the end and so that our time and investment is fruitful.
Interestingly, one of the biggest leadership failures that exists is exactly the opposite of this, not setting expectations clearly so all parties involved can be successful. This is particularly true when companies work with consultants.
Most people and companies have the idea of ‘setting expectations’ all wrong. They think “I’m hiring them [consultant, service firm, etc.] to do the work, they should know what to do. It’s not my job to manage them, that’s why I hired them in the first place.”
If you plan to work with consultants or a third-party services firm it’s important you engage them with the right mindset: “what can I do to help ensure this person delivers beyond my expectations?”
Follow these seven steps on setting expectations to help ease the transition while finding success quicker with your new consultant:
1.Make expectations clear for yourself 2.Know when you need them and when you don’t 3.Understand the WHY 4.Meet & Discuss 5.Make it Mutual 6.Write them down 7.Get agreement & commitment
Often times when someone falls short of our expectations it’s usually our fault for not spending enough time upfront providing the big picture perspective, context to the work and communication standards to lead the consultant to a happy ending.
“People can’t live up to the expectations they don’t know have been set for them.” – Rory Vaden
Key Take Away: Take the time to create a plan which outlines every nuance of the work to be done and ensure all parties involved are in agreement. Include in this plan how you will address disagreements and my good ole friend ‘scope creep’. Action Item: Utilize a Statement-of-Work (SOW) as your template for documenting the project and or work the consultant will be doing. Within this SOW be sure to clearly state expectations for all parties involved, both yourself and the consultant. Keep in mind – “how can I set this person up for success”. It’s always a good idea to have an attorney review your SOW prior to signatures as this document often times can be legally binding.
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.
Travis also serves as Chairman, Board of Directors for DeviceAlliance, the only Southern California based medical device non-profit professionals organization and member of the University of California Irvine's Division of Continuing Education Advisory Board for Medical Product Development. He holds a business management degree from California State University Long Beach and is a graduate of the Southern California Entrepreneur Academy.