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Great Expectations

Great Expectaions
My apologies to Charles Dickens for ripping off the title of his classic novel, but Great Expectations encapsulates an important principle of leadership. Great leaders have great expectations, of themselves and teams.

A team will never exceed its leader’s public expectations of the team. If the leader aims high, the team will do likewise. If the leader has low, or no expectations the team will almost certainly be mediocre.

There are two types of expectations: Public and Private.

Public Expectations

Public expectations are those the leader shares with the team. These are the leader’s voiced expectations. These are the expectations where the leader should aim high: high, but REALISTIC, while still STRETCHING the team.

There is much to consider here. A leader must have high public expectations, higher than the team would expect of themselves. These expectations must stretch the team to perform at a higher level, but the team must still have a chance of success – around 60 to 70 percent.

Target setting with a team takes thought, salesmanship and practice.

You must decide what targets are acceptable to you; these are based on YOUR goals. Consider each salesperson’s current skill level and how far you feel each salesperson is performing below his or her potential. Consider each salesperson’s current performance and calculate an average month. Next, consider what extra actions are required by each salesperson to increase production by 50 percent in the coming month.

The next trick is to SELL THEM ON DOING THOSE ACTIONS. This is where your leadership and selling skills will be needed.

You should not impose your targets on your salespeople. Instead, sell them on the idea of achieving higher targets. Talk with them about what they could do with the extra income (a mini goal), and get them excited about the possibility of higher achievement. Talk about the extra action required, and ask this question:

Can you do it?

All you are asking is whether or not they feel they are capable of doing these additional actions. If the actions are well considered by you, then you know they are capable but you have to get each team member to agree. When you get a “Yes” response, ask your next question:

Will you do it?

This question is important. Just because somebody can do something, it does not mean that they will. The “Will you do it?” question is a commitment question, but there is one more question, after you receive a “Yes” response:


Now commitment becomes a matter of integrity. You are not asking the salesperson to promise to achieve the increased target; you are asking him or her to promise to do the ACTIONS necessary to reach the increased target. This is not much to ask if the actions you propose are within the salesperson’s capabilities and are fair.

Once you have commitment and promise, when you talk to your team about targets, you talk about the increased target level and of how proud you are of each person for stretching their levels of action and performance. You talk about how you cannot wait to write big bonus cheques. This is positive pressure to perform.

Private Expectations

Private expectations are those you think: you definitely keep these to yourself!

Although you publicly ‘expect’ each team member to do additional actions and to achieve targets that are 50 percent higher than each person’s monthly averages, privately you have a figure that you are almost certain will be reached. The big point is that this figure is higher than you would achieve had you not raised your level of expectation.

In our example you are expecting a 50 percent increase – your public expectation. Privately, would you be happy with a 35 percent increase?

Publicly you stretch the team, raising each member’s expectations in performance and, especially, action. Privately you know that even if the team falls short, you will still achieve a figure you are delighted with.

Falling short of the public expectation gives you an excuse to have another go next month – to achieve the full 50 percent.

You can almost be guaranteed that not all of the actions the team committed to do were performed. Get the team to agree to this. Do not get angry, nor should you try to make them feel guilty. Say, “This is good news. You achieved a 35 percent increase without doing all the actions. If you had, we’d have reached our targets! Let’s have another go in the coming month. Are you with me?

Now you work on a new plan, but you want to begin from a higher base: you increased by 35 percent last month; this becomes your new base level. Increase that by 50 percent in the coming month. This requires a new plan to determine the actions, then the “Can you do it?” question, followed by the “Will you do it?” question, which is followed by, “Promise?

You should reach a point where the team realises what is happening and so complete their actions, if only to avoid you raising the bar next month!

Slowly but surely you will teach the team that in life you do get what you expect, provided you are willing to do the actions.

Begin with your expectations, public and private. Sell the public expectation to the team. Plan the actions, sell the team, and then talk constantly about your raised expectation. You will inspire the team and take the company to greater heights.

Great expectations; greater results.

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