Develop appropriate expectations.
At age twenty-seven, I was hired as the controller for a manufacturing company with plants of operation in Canada and the United States. The first year was hectic as I learned the ropes and was looking to make my mark.
The following spring, we had a company-wide meeting of the minds. It was a senior-management-training week held at a nearby resort a couple of weeks prior to our busy season.
I was well aware that there would be a series of meetings to kick off the year, but no one had mentioned that I was expected to deliver a speech on the morning of the first day.
I only found this out when I was reading the agenda in my hotel room the night before.
As it turns out, one of my colleagues and a known nemesis had neglected to mention this to me. In golf, he would be referred to as a sandbagger—a golfer who lies about his golf abilities in order to have the upper hand and, therefore, be able to win because of it. (Sandbagger is a euphemism for a liar or cheater and demonstrates a general lack of integrity.)
My co-worker was seriously trying to make me look like a fool on a very important day for me. I can only imagine that in some warped way, in his mind, he felt that he had set me up for failure, which would make him appear better or more professional.
I quickly asked around to find out what I should be talking about in my speech. I found that several of the managers had prepared short videos and presentations. I had no time.
I locked myself away in my hotel room that night and started to write. I knew that, in the past, when I had written about something important to me, it usually was important to others as well. At that time, I had some things I wanted to talk about with our group.
The next morning, the same colleague inquired smugly about the topic of my speech. I told him that I was going to talk about expectations. He strongly suggested that I should rethink this as I was surely going to make a fool of myself, but I didn’t listen. I really didn’t respect him, and so I wasn’t concerned about what he had to say.
Somehow, at that point, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I knew that I brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. I knew how to find solutions, get my team on board, and get results. I knew that I was working for a company owned and operated by a formidable entrepreneur. I trusted that I was a good judge of character and that our fearless leader would understand what I wanted to address. I knew that he expected nothing less than fearless leadership from his team and that I would not disappoint him.
I was nervous, very nervous, but I struggled through my speech taking time to make eye contact, smile, and make every one of my carefully planned points:
1) I explained that when I had decided to join the company, it was for a very specific reason. It wasn’t about money or vacation time or progressing my career path, it was about finding a company that met my expectations.
2) I was looking for a company that was aggressive, innovative, and ready to break out—a company that was expecting a lot from me and willing to back my efforts.
3) I expected to be in a position where I could learn and where I would feel challenged.
4) I expected to be a part of a winning team in pursuit of excellence—a team of change makers.
5) I wanted the challenge of effectively leading, coaching, and developing my direct team to play an integral part in the company’s success.
6) Happily, I joined the company, and now, almost a year later, I was ecstatic to share that not only did the company meet my expectations, but so did my colleagues. I encouraged everyone to take a good look around at the incredible team that he or she was a part of, and then I thanked everyone for listening.
Relieved to be finished with my speech but still feeling very nervous, I fumbled to grab my pen from the podium and literally threw all of my notes up into the air. They fluttered to the floor as I awkwardly made my way back to my seat.
As I sat down, the vice president to my left stoically looked straight ahead and whispered—that was great!
Our president and fearless leader took the podium next. He graciously thanked me for my speech and then asked everyone to be patient for a moment as he had to pick up some very important pieces of paper—my notes!—off the floor.
He continued by saying that my speech had summarized the reason for the meetings that week. I had stolen his thunder but that was okay. He said he was overwhelmed when he looked around the room during my speech and saw that others felt the same as I did.
In closing, he referred, again, to the idea of expectations. As a company, our expectations were in sync, and he was proud to be heading into the busy season with the best team ever.
I exhaled louder.
If you really want to be a successful employee, or hey, if you want to be successful as a company: you need to have detailed expectations from both the employees’ and the employers’ perspective. It’s important to have not only common goals and plans but ideals as well.