Question: I’m known for having very high expectations that aren’t easy to meet. Can you elaborate on successful strategies regarding this? While I’m sure open to changing my attitude, I’m not thrilled with lowering my expectations.

Answer: Believe me, I understand. It is so easy to look at an issue and think, “I can do...(insert really high performance expectation here).”

And, under ideal circumstances, you probably could achieve it. The problem is, of course, that rarely are there “ideal circumstances.”

For example, let’s say that you determine your sales group could build the business by 25 percent this year. So, you — since you are in the habit of creating high expectations — decide to set a goal of a 25 percent increase in sales for your group.

Now, I understand the power of setting high expectations. And, I also understand that setting goals is the first step in serious achievement. However, the goal is only the starting point. Granted, it is an important starting point, but it is hardly sufficient by itself.

Before you commit to that goal, do some important analysis by answering a couple of questions.

First, “What has to change for your group to achieve that goal?”

I’m assuming that the group did not produce a 25 percent increase in sales last year. So, your goal calls for greater performance than in the past. In order to achieve it, something has to be different this year than last year. What is it going to be?

It may be that a competitor has gone out of business and you expect to pick up all of their former customers. Or, it may be that something has changed in the market, and it is now 25 percent bigger than it was last year. In other words, it may be that some external circumstances have occurred to dramatically change the landscape and you reasonably expect to benefit from that change. If that’s the case, then your lofty expectation seems reasonable. If not, then you need to proceed to the next level of analysis.

If there is no major change in business circumstances, then your people will have to do something different in order to achieve your goal. Are they going to work longer? Are they going to somehow gain insights they didn’t have before and work much smarter? Are they going to become dramatically more competent overnight?

Don’t think that just because you say it, they are going to be automatically equipped to perform. Given no change in market conditions, a 25 percent increase in sales requires everyone to act differently. How are you going to help them do that?

What I’m trying to say is: Before you can expect anyone to do something significantly different than what they have done in the past, you have to show them how to do it, and you have to make sure they are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to do it.

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High Sales Expectations Have a Hidden Cost