Often the likeliness of someone having an enjoyable experience is the notion of what they expected from it. “We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.” Dr. Robb Rutledge (2014.) My parents understood that, as they would say, you cannot be disappointed if you do not expect much. 

Maybe it is why many people do not like their birthdays, or at least there are more holidays (in the US) they prefer better. We expect so much, presents, accolades etc. but it never lives up to expectations. 

Sorry for the ADHD side bit. But what about teams? If we look at athletic teams, without a doubt if they fail to meet the fans expectations, they had a bad season. In most cases that is winning a title, but of course only one team can win a title. Many fans end the season disappointed, but as I have written in the past, you need to look down when climbing a mountain, as well as hearing from athletes whose teams finished second, and the notion they thought it was a failure vs. celebrating how far they got (Joe Burrow quoting Kurt Warner)

What about your teams in the ‘real world.’ After years of doing ‘SMART’ goals (Doran et al in 1981) but more mainstream in the late 90s, that goal setting is not really that successful (What percentage of New Years Resolutions stick?) What really drives successful outcomes is creating systems to achieve goals (blog post coming as part of this series.) 

Back to the topic, setting expectations and doing it the right way. Now if I told you the expectation for you was the following what would you think: 

  • Show up on Time 
  • Get you Work Done on Time 
  • Do not bring me problems, Bring me Solutions 
  • You are responsible for your own career 

Honestly, this was a lot of the places I worked. Punch in on time, and even the ‘need to stay late’ (it was implied but never written down) To the point managers walked the floor to see when people left. But that does not drive engagement, nor does it get the most out of a team. 

But what if the list was more like this: 

  • You should Enjoy Working here (Work should be fun) 
  • Let your teammates know your schedule 
  • Ask for help when needed, and help others when they ask 
  • If there is an issue, raise it up as soon as possible so the team can triage and resolve it. 

Now does that sound more like the correct expectations for your team? That is my list (shortened its a bit longer but you get the idea) in fact ‘delivering’ is at the bottom. In most cases if you do the top, the projects get done. If you think I work in an exciting place writing cool stuff like VR or AI. No, my team builds data gathering and managing systems to help the business file corporate taxes. Ask anyone though, everyone enjoys working on the team, it’s not about the work, it’s about the team. 

Look, just think back to kindergarten when your teacher asked you what you want to be when you grow up (ok, yeah we went over this it is a bad question.) But no one grows up saying ‘I want to write data extraction and transformation code so the business can load tax software.’ So, how do you attract people to the team, find quality developers and grow them? Simple, create an environment where the expectations are not about SMART goals, adding revenue, creating miracle solutions, lying etc. It is expectations of working on a team that thinks enjoying work is first, and trust and cooperative environment. 

Setting the expectations this way is achievable, unlike unrealistic business goals. Building the system so that we follow those pillars allows us to build any software. Think about the best places you have worked, and often you remember the people, the good times and occasionally the product (if it was unique that is different.) The stories you tell of the crazy times are what you recall. Set the expectations so the goal is to get the best out of the employees, and they will deliver the best products for you. Richard Branson is quoted as saying “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.