Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's All about Expectations folks

I have a pet peeve that got me thinking. My peeve is people who say "I'll call you" or "I'll email you some times to connect" and then don't. It's the modern equivalent of the Hollywood brush off "Let's do lunch". One of my service providers did this to me last week and it's annoying and unprofessional, and it got me to thinking again about how important expectations are.

Satisfying other people really is all about setting their expectations, and it's especially true in business.

The ultimate is meeting your quarterly numbers. AAPL was slammed because they missed their financial expectations even though profits had grown dramatically. If you say you are going to report X and you report X-1 you are going to get dinged in today's short term market. It's a no win for the public company CEO and the great ones understand it's a long term game, but the CFOs make their stripes on setting expectations right consistently.

Next is product schedules. There is discipline to this skill. You want to be aggressive to stretch the team and yet hit the dates you set because the rest of your business team is planning on it. Literally. Planning customer roll out, planning PR, so major delays play havoc with customer expectations. I very much admire my business partner YY and her ability to think through every aspect of the product release, set the company's expectation at 95%, consistently deliver that 95% and sometimes deliver the upside of 100%. Everyone's needs are met and our products leap forward every month.

Then there is your relationships. Californians seem very friendly at first, and then are hard to get close to. The English are frosty at first and then warm up. In business, be clear about your relationships. Are you work colleagues or friends... can your companion truly be him or herself in all his or her dumbness at times, or do they always need to be wary ? Are you loyal or fickle at heart? Obviously you can't signal this early in a relationship but there comes a time when you can, and it's just more efficient.

Arrive when you say you are going to arrive. Being late is the ultimate in bad manners - it says you think your time is more important than my time.

And if you tell me you are going to do something for heaven's sake do it or don't tell me in the first place! It just makes me grumpy.

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