Talk about agreements, not expectations
By David Lund, The Hotel Financial Coach
Expectations. I hear this word from almost all GMs, controllers and hotel executives. It's the wrong word and it's not an effective way to manage. In our lives, few things make us less productive and more distant than other people's expectations of us. Expectations are everywhere in our work and personal lives and people detest them. Who are you to have an expectation of me? Just because you're my boss/wife/husband, does that give you the right to have an expectation of me?
If I have a complaint in my world, it quickly becomes an expectation that someone needs to fix, and I tend to obsess over the injustice, and in doing so, I create my expectations. What we need to see is that this is completely ineffective for getting things to change. Complaints are very easy to ignore and diminish; however, requests on the other hand, are not easy to ignore. Once we have made a request, we're heading in the right direction because on the other side of a request we now have the ability to make an agreement.
Let's take a hotel example. Currently I am having a very hard time getting the other managers to prepare their monthly forecast in its detail and to get it to me by the 30th of the month. I typically send a schedule and reminders. I speak at the department head meeting about the deadline, but I still don't get a high success rate on their submissions.
It's always a struggle to get other's to do what I "expect." Without the forecast, I'm left with two very unattractive options: do it myself, or go without it. Both options mean I am being shortchanged because you're not living up to my expectation and I have two alternatives. I can complain about it which, by the way, I have been doing for years without any results, or I can make a "request" of you. This is the pivot point. If I am willing to see that my current status is an expectation and it is weak, I can bring myself to ask you, to make a request of you. It might go something like this:
"Peter, can you help me? I want to include your numbers, not mine, as part of the detailed forecast and I'm requesting that you complete your part and get it to me by noon on the 30th. Can you do that?"
Now it's not easy for Peter to say, "Sure no problem." He now sees what you're asking for in a different light and he might say. "I could but that means I'm going to have to rearrange my week and my assistant is on holiday and our second office computer is dead."
This is what you want to hear. This is the foundation of an agreement as you have now both asked for something. It's no longer the case of you having a single expectation, now we have multiple issues in the air, yours and his, and this is the way to go. Turn the complaint into a request, and turn the request into an agreement.
"OK, so I will send our systems person to your office today to switch out your second computer, and I'm not sure what I can do to help you rearrange your week," to which Peter replies, "No worries. With the computer replaced, I can manage and I will get you my forecast by the 30th."
What just happened here? 1. I changed my language up front from a tired self-centered expectation into a request. 2. Peter asked for my help to complete and meet my request. 3. I committed to acting to help him with the computer. 4. He in turn was positive in his response to meet my request.
The above exchange is the foundation of an agreement and upon examination, we can see it passes the test to be an agreement because it has four parts, two for me and two for Peter.
The test is "get and give." If an agreement is really an agreement it must have these parts; a get and give for each of us. In this example, Peter gets his computer fixed and he gives me information on time. I give him the resources to fix his computer and I get his report on time. Before the request and the agreement, it was just me and my ask. I wasn't giving anything, and I had an expectation of Peter and no agreement. Now, I can be pretty sure some of you who are reading this are saying to yourself, "I'm the boss and people need to do as I say," "I don't have time to make agreements with everyone."
Maybe that's partly true, but know this: Your people are quietly thumbing their nose at you and your expectations. What you need to do if you want commitment, is to drop your expectations and start making agreements. Take the time to make these agreements and find out what you can do to help the people you work with. This will change your world. It all starts with you and the ask; without it you will not have an agreement. Find out how you can help the people you work with and they will be more than happy to reciprocate. If it's all about you and what you want, then all I have to say to you is, "good luck."
The Hotel Financial Coach