Any time you are about to embark upon anything, pause for a moment. Ask yourself if both you and the person or parties involved with the assignment are truly on the same page. That you agree to what the end results and deliverables are. Doing this before you begin, greatly improves the chances of success. Although, as most of us know from first-hand experience, failing sometimes is exactly what you need to do from time to time.
Tip Number One: Put expectations in writing. That eliminates any ambiguity that can result from verbal agreements. This is one of the reasons all contracts are put into writing. As the written agreements are passed between the parties, there is the opportunity to go back and forth and edit the document so everyone is in agreement with what the outcome will be. This will mitigate the risk of any unplanned and negative surprises.
When written agreements are being formalized, allow a few days to let the document breathe before making the final edits. Taking time to separate yourself from the document details for a day or two will allow you to see how complete the communication is, or what critical elements may have been overlooked.
One of the projects I took on shortly after accepting a marketing role at a technology company, included reviewing the contracts and projects associated with trade shows to which the previous job holder had committed.
I determined there was one show for which the person had signed a contract nine months earlier. This meant I had just three months to work on a project that normally would take about six to eight months of preparation.
Since I knew how much work was involved, and withdrawing from the contract was not financially feasible, I had to determine the best way to set the right expectations for my boss about how our company was going to successfully exhibit at this trade show.
The first thing I did was to create a schedule working backwards, with a realistic timeline about what I could accomplish in three months. Having years of experience allowed me to be able to design a realistic strategic execution plan, but I knew I was going to need more help to pull this off.
Part of putting the working execution schedule together included communicating that I would need additional budget to hire a part-time person to help me with the tactical work, as I focused on the strategic portion and branding aspects.
By literally detailing almost every day what elements of the project would need to be accomplished, my boss was satisfied with understanding what would be realistic to achieve in the timeframe, and we were able to negotiate from the plan.
My reverse schedule also included, in writing, which specific elements of this project were not feasible. We also shared this detailed plan with the executive management and sales teams, and obtained their support so everyone was in agreement with the final expectations.
Thanks to a solid and agreed-to up front contract with my boss, the executive management, and sales team, by the time we were on the trade show exhibit floor, everyone was pleased. The best part is the fact I over delivered on the initial expectations I had set by 200%. What’s more, I won a company award for flawless execution of a project most people thought was impossible to pull off.
The key element associated with the success of this project was keeping everyone on the big-picture team aligned from the beginning on what could be realistically achieved, and allowing everyone to do their part to help make the project successful. In essence, this was also an example of supreme collaboration, with the underpinning of setting proper expectations up front.
Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coach, author of two business books (e.g., Wisdom Whisperer, Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer), and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances. She also is the creator and Host of a TV Show and Podcast called Murf & E Unfiltered – Zero BS Biz Talk.
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