It has been a wild ride these past few months as we watch the stock market rise and fall – more fall – in several hundred-point increments. Last month the Dow Jones dropped 799 points, or 3%, in one day. In financial markets, that is a massive decline and causes investors around the world to worry. It then moved up over 1,000 points a few weeks later.
While a stock prices is influenced in many ways, it moves based on expectations. For example, if a company is wildly successful one quarter with its revenue rising 50%, one may expect the stock price would increase. Heck, that much increase in revenue is generally a good thing. But if investors expected revenue to rise 75% then the stock price will likely decline.
Many of the problems between manager and employee are like this. When expectations of one party are not met it causes the other party to see decreased morale, motivation, confidence, etc…. On the contrary, it also goes up when one party’s expectations are exceeded.
The other day, a woman I had coached years ago called me up as she was having problems with her manager. Her manager wasn’t happy with her work. She had just been asked to implement a sales incentive program and was proud to review the project’s status. He was “expecting much more” and “concerned that she didn’t deliver.” He wanted a fully baked and implemented plan. She thought they could discuss the plan and strategize around implementation ideas. After only being at the company for 60 days and getting this feedback, she is now concerned her job is in jeopardy. Expectations were missed.
In another instance, I was talking to a frustrated CEO of Global Fortune 100 company and asked him how he wanted his executive staff to present their ideas. He said, “most of the time I want them to give me something that is mostly right, so we can move quickly but they spend so much more time making sure it is perfect.” In this case he wanted speed over accuracy whereas his management team was giving him accuracy over speed. He would have preferred a one-page executive summary and a short conversation to understand the strategy and direction versus a 35-slide PowerPoint and one-hour presentation. Again, expectations were missed.
In both instances, the manager and the employee were not clear on what was to be delivered, how it would be delivered and when it was delivered. Sometimes it is the manager who doesn’t clearly articulate what s/he wants. And sometimes, it is the employee who doesn’t ask enough questions or paraphrase the outcomes.
Mitigating this problem is often easy and may only take a few minutes.
A manager should ask:
Explain to me how you see this project, what you will deliver, and by when.
What assistance do you need from me or others?
When would you like to have a checkpoint to see if progress is moving appropriately?
A employee should ask:
What criteria will you use to measure success?
If I delivered [INSERT DELIVERABLES] by [INSERT DATE] according to [INSERT CRITERIA], would this meet your needs?
Would it be o.k. if we had a 10-minute review next week after I have looked at this?
Looking back on that December day when the stock market dropped 799 points, the President of the United States had met with the President of China and indicated that trade discussions went well, and a trade deal was imminent. The market, or investors, liked this news. People bought stock causing overall prices to go up by over 1%. The next day, nobody in the White House could be specific on the trade agreement and investors started to realize there was no deal. This caused those same buyers to become sellers when they realized that maybe no agreement existed. Expectations were missed.
Stock markets don’t like uncertainty. When interest rate directions are understood, when government policy is clear, and economic stability exist, the markets will adjust in a calmer manner. Employees also don’t like uncertainty. When directions are clear and consistent, employees are better able to meet expectations.