Managing Expectations

This picture is the only remaining proof of a special visit to the corporate headquarters during my time with Copart INC. My hair was died Smurf blue, the color of our corporate logo. The reason I had this blue hair is because I promised my team if they scored a perfect audit I would oblige them this act. Let me explain, Copart measured its metrics, its successes on nothing more than what came from these audits. Audits were everything! Your entire performance was judged solely on these audits. Out of over 180 locations we were one of eight who scored a perfect audit during that period.

I was a brand-new General manager with less than a year with the company, but had a great crew. I encouraged them to set our bar higher than the rest of the facilities, we were going to do things differently. Our location, located in the Branson area, was going to set the standard on what customer service was supposed to mean. We worked hard and achieved the perfect score. The deal of dying my hair for the perfect score had already been struck, though I never expected us to achieve that distinction. I waited for months for the foot to drop on the hair coloring and then nothing- I thought I was in the clear until I announced a trip to the corporate headquarters in California.

The day before I left, they came in. The blue dye in hand. I was mortified. I couldn’t go and face these high level executives some of whom I had never met, with blue hair. It was career suicide. I made a decision in that moment. The decision was that I managed the expectations of my crew and they produced. What would they say about me as their leader if I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain? Expectations are hard to manage, I could have dismissed the expectations of my crew and refused the embarrassment of going to my multi-billion dollar company headquarters with blue hair but I did what was right. I should have set the expectation to be a local reward!

This company fired me six months later while on a corporate retreat in Puerto Rico after a highly encouraged extremely late night of drinking with VP’s and other high level executive team members. A number of us didn’t make it to the general session the next morning, some of us in agreement of that decision the night before. And surely with the high encouragement from some our VP’s that this was an ok course of action all would be ok. But I was wrong, As soon as we returned back stateside they dismissed us all, some of us were new and some of us had been with the company more than two decades but most importantly – no one understood the expectations. I should have known that the event was required, heck the company paid all that money to send 180 of us! But my expectation calculation was way off. I made an assumption that if the tenured employees were ok with missing this event, it was ok for me as well.

The best thing you can do for yourself, the employees you are responsible for, and your company is set clear and manageable expectations. There would have been a way to avoid the majority of us not making the session and losing our jobs, it would have been easy to set a clear expectation of what was needed from that group, so we failed our company as they failed us.

Clarity is the pathway to solid results – As anyone who’s worked in large organizations knows, clarity isn’t always an attribute in abundant supply. With multiple players in multiple layers, it’s easy to have communication and direction grow garbled.

Why Set Expectations?

  • They keep employees focused
  • They mitigate frustration
  • They allow for constructive criticism and benchmarking

Setting Effective Expectations.

  • Define specific expectations
  • Communicate with no room for confusion
  • Set realistic goals
  • Review regularly, focus on wins

If you have a hard time structuring the above, find a good consultant or advocate to help develop.

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