Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to create and how to set clear expectations.

In any relationship, whether professional or personal,  setting clear expectations is key to making sure that that relationship is successful or not. But knowing what is expected of us something a lot of people struggle with, and this can lead to a lot of headache at work or home.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how expectations are the birth of either success or failure of any endeavor, why it’s a good idea to set clear expectations and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

01:00 Why this topic was chosen.

04:00 How expectations are the birth of either sucess or failure of any endeavor.

04:05 Why it’s a good idea to set clear expectations.

05:10 How you can trace the root cause of a failure to a problem of expectation.

06:25 Why expectations are important.

07:27 Why people suck at knowing other people’s expectations.

09:30 Times when we don’t have expectations.

09:50 The importance of figuring out if your expectations make sense and are realistic.

3 Key Points:

  • Setting clear expectations is something that a lot of people struggle with.
  • Expectations rule our lives.
  • Our expectation of ourselves is to be efficient and break things down for our audience.



Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli: And today on the Startup Chat, we’re gonna talk about how to create and how to set clear expectations. I mentioned this subject to Hiten a second ago before I hit the record button, and sometimes I wish I would record before I record because your first response was just beautiful, you know. Your first natural and organic reaction to how to set clear expectations was what Hiten?



Hiten: It was just a chuckle. Yeah. One of those right there. See, you did it. I don’t know, I think like, this is a topic that I talk to people about. This is a topic that I might have tweeted about, but I’ll probably tweet about more. This is a topic that people struggle with and sometimes realize it sometimes don’t, especially people who are starting companies or managers. Sometimes they just don’t understand that they have expectations of themselves and other people and these are the things that cause suffering for them. So my chuckle was just out of the fact that like, I think expectations rule our life and our lives and oftentimes we don’t know what expectations we have until we’re hit with certain situations and we’re like, wow, whoa. You know? In some of my most intimate as well as challenging relationships in life, I think expectations sometimes come up and they can cause trouble or they can be really beautiful. So yeah, I think the chuckle was just out of wow, what a fascinating topic and what a key topic and there’s just so much you could go into around this. We like to obviously be efficient with these episodes and we also want to provide as much value as possible in a short amount of time, which is essentially the definition of efficiency. So our expectation of ourselves is to be efficient and break things down. The expectation the audience should have from us is that we do that in every episode with every topic. And if we don’t do that, tell us. So, okay. How do you like that?



Steli: How do you like that? Very much, so because what I love is you instantly went into meta mode, like expectation, what are the expectation for this episode? What is the expectation for the podcast in general? Right? I love it. I love it. So yeah, there’s a lot of venues we could go down to. So the thing that I would like to, maybe the thing that we can touch on on this episode to set an expectation for their listener is just talk about, I just want to touch high level on the concept of like why are expectations important, why they’re invisible but all encompassing, becoming more self aware of the expectations you have, and why when you’re frustrated with people or when you were impressed by them, how both things are so related to your own expectation. They’re not things in a vacuum, people are not impressive or underwhelming or frustrating or disappointing in a bubble. They are because you had an expectation for this person or this task or this thing, that the delivery was either above or below your own judgment. So let’s talk a little bit about the meta topic of expectations. I want to stay philosophical and then let’s make a commitment to the audience that we’re going to create a few more episodes on this on like how to set expectations or how to work with expectations, when they’re met, when they’re not met, for projects. We can like go a bit more tactical later, but I want to stay philosophical for this one, right? High level. One thing that I realized and that I realize more and more is how expectations, like how my expectations and the expectations of others are the birth of either success or failure before any endeavor. Right? And I didn’t use to be as aware of that as the, if I don’t know what my own expectations are for this thing that we’re discussing or thinking about, and if I don’t know what exactly the expectation of this other person or these other group of people are, if we don’t make sure that we have clarity of expectations and set clear expectations for each other and that those map, then the chances of one of us or all of us being disappointed and unhappy or the thing we’re discussing being unsuccessful are incredibly high. Can almost read, like I can almost go back to the root cause of a failure, whatever the failure is to a problem of expectations. And so now more so than ever, almost in any relationship and almost in any conversation, very early, the question pops up in my mind, do I know what my expectations are and does this person know what my expectations are? And conversely, do I know what this person’s expectations are? And how do I know that I know? Like how do we know that we’re really are clear on this because 99% of the time people think that the expectation is obvious, that it was already discussed. Well, we said, we want this thing to succeed and we said, we should do in a really cool way. It’s obvious, right? Like what else is there to discuss in terms of expectations? We said it should be cool and we said it should be a big success. Like we’re on the same page without realizing how not true that statement is or that line of thinking. So I’ve gotten a little bit obsessed about setting expectations and getting better at it and be more aware of the expectations in the rooms so to speak. So it’s become a bigger and bigger topic in my mind every day in the last couple of weeks. Hence why we’re talking about this now. But I know that it’s a big topic for you as well. But let’s talk about why expectations are important, right? And why are people particularly typically not good at being aware of their own expectations, the other people’s expectations and setting expectations and getting them on the same page?



Hiten: Yeah. We grow up and expectations are set for us by our parents or whoever was around us when we grew up. And oftentimes those expectations are unclear to us. You could say they’re subconscious. We’re not conscious to these expectations that we have of ourselves as well as of other people. For example, if you were told that you need to get an A on everything in school. Guess what? You have an expectation of yourself that you’re going to get an a on everything.



Steli: Right.



Hiten: And that you need to and you will work your butt off until you do that. That’s kind of the sign of an overachiever, if I were to like box somebody or labeled them. And so I think one of the reasons we’re not conscious to it is that we’ve lived with these expectations all our life and they were not ours. They were put on us by other people, well meaning people, but other people, well well meaning people oftentimes not all the time. And so I like to think about it like if I have, the easiest way for me to recognize this in my experience is that when I have a very strong demand or a strong pull towards what someone else should do or how they should do it or what I’m expecting from them, and it’s just strong, then I really think about that. Wait. Hold on. What is this? Like where does this come from? Does this really make sense in this situation? And then I really start breaking it down, cause really what I’m trying to do in my life and what I like, what I do my best at a around expectations is I want to make sure that if I have them, they matter, whether it’s for me or somebody else. That’s my only concern. Because, yes, I am going to have expectations. And some people will tell you don’t have any expectations, it leads to a happier life or some pithy quote like that. And like, yeah sure, like, yeah, if I wasn’t trying to achieve anything or I didn’t have to work with other people or manage them or whatever or lead them or whatever, then yeah, it’s okay. I don’t need any expectations of myself or anybody else. I can just sit here and do nothing. That’s not the case. Right? So I’m just trying to make sure that whatever expectations I have, they’re good ones. They make sense. They’re important for the other person. And if they’re not that, then it’s my own bullshit, it’s my own crap and I need to like check myself. Same with the expectations for myself, but those are a little bit harder to see.



Steli: I love that, because that’s not where my mind immediately went with the, when I have expectations. Well, is there ever a time we don’t have expectations when we’re involved, when we are truly engaged in something? Like maybe for a stranger or maybe for an acquaintance, but for most of the people that are close to us in life, our family, our friends, our core, our co founders, our investors, the people that are, that were really engaged with, we tend to have expectation almost any interaction. Right?



Hiten: Totally.



Steli: And so in those directions, the question that you ask yourself is, are those expectations that I have, do they make sense? Are they coming from? What does do they make sense mean, right? I have a few assumptions, but I want to hear it from you. Like how do you assess if your expectations are good, quote unquote, or bad or useful or useless or like how do you, what makes an expectation a good one? Let’s just say that.



Hiten: So what makes an expectation a good one? I think the expectation’s a good one if, let’s say for example, you have an expectation of somebody else or yourself and you’re in a certain role. Is that something that matters for that role? So if you’re a marketer and you’re marketing and I’m managing you, if you can’t measure your marketing and you don’t understand how to measure it, you’re not going to be able to be an effective marketer. So in a role of being a marketer an expectation is that you can measure your efforts in some way. If you can’t measure your efforts, don’t be a marketer. You shouldn’t be a marketer. I think that’s a fair expectation of a marketer is that they can measure what they do, quantify it and do more of it or learn from it. And that’s the expectation. So expectation a lot of times has to do with the role. And I try to keep it very, very objective cause subjective gets really interesting when it comes to expectations. And that’s what I mean by like does this matter for the role? So for example, if someone is a marketer and I expect them to measure their marketing, that’s good. If I expect them to able to write copy, I think that’s a good expectation. If I expect them to be good at shooting video, that’s probably not a reasonable expectation unless they’re focused on video. If I expect them to be experts in SEO, but they’re just a marketer and they’re a generalized marketer, that’s probably not a fair expectation. That being said, if I hire someone and their job is SEO, then guess what? That’s an expectation and I would expect them to be able to do that. So a lot of those expectation has to do with the definition of a role. And I think that’s what people forget. Right? So like if you’re a parent, there’s expectations of you and how you should, you know, be a parent. You should be loving and kind and also at the same time be able to discipline your children, and make sure that they grow up to be, you know, ideally like contributing members of society and good people, if that’s what you care about and your values are. So really expectations as a parent is like, have your kids aligned with your values and do the best you can on that and all that kind of stuff. But you know, that expectation also when it comes to parents, it’s a little subjective because it’s put on by society more than anything else. And same comes for like even a marketer, right? So I would say that role matters so much when it comes to expectations and making sure that someone can live up, that’s why they use that terminology like live up to your expectations. Well it’s like what where do they, like the question is good. Like how do you set them, where do they come from? And I think ultimately it really does boil down to this simple thing, which is what’s your role and what are the expectations of that role?



Steli: Love that. And I think I’ll add one more thing before we wrap the episode up on this topic. I think another criteria for me at least for what makes a good expectation good is that it’s clearly understood.



Hiten: Yeah.



Steli: If I expect something of you in you don’t understand that, then the question is, was this really the right expectation of you? Right? And so I think when I hire you as an SEO expert, you knowing things about SEO is an expectation. It’s understood because you applied for a job that said the expectation is you are an expert in topic X, and then I expect you to be an expert in that topic. But oftentimes, even in that, what does being an expert really mean? Like there’s a bunch of bullet points, oftentimes. You should have experience in X, Y, and Z and if you go a bit deeper than might be a very different understanding of what these things mean, right? At least three years of startup experience. Now, somebody might have done a side hustle startup while they were in a corporate job for two years on their own without ever launching and then worked at a startup for a year. And they’re like, well, I have startup experience with three years. And maybe your expectation when you say somebody needs to have three years of start up experience is somebody has had to have worked in a startup or started a startup and at least for three years been operating with customers and at least have raised this amount of money or had this amount of success, right? When you say three years start up experience, you might have an expectation that’s very different from somebody else’s three year startup experience and both of you might have said, yes. This person might say yes, I check off on that expectation, when you would have said no they don’t. So I think being more specific, more granular in the way that I set expectations so that they’re are harder to misunderstand. They’re harder for the other party to have a completely different understanding of what I mean makes I think a good expectation good or a bad expectation bad. As I say something that the more people could misunderstand something, the easier it is to misunderstand an expectation the worse to me it is to have or to communicate in the first place. So, how easy is it to understand your expectation or how easy is it to misunderstand your expectation to me is a big part of what makes an expectation a good one. All right, I think that’s it for the philosophical version of the expectation episode. We might do a few more tactical ones. How to set an expectation with freelancers, how to set expectations with new hires that I think can be really useful. I think this is one of those topics, Hiten, where it’s like this seems so obvious, that it is, that we have to create a list of things that are so obvious that almost they can’t but be misunderstood, right? I think the more obvious a topic or an area seems, the harder it is to attain real mastery in it, right? Because we all just think a surface level of this thing because we’ve heard it so much and we instantly think we are the standard and everybody, no matter if they’re young or old instantly thinks yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. This is not this complicated, so I didn’t need to spend a lot of time with. But these are the topics were most of us are really terrible at it because of our lack of investment in mastery, in learning it and studying it. And expectations is one of these things that’s like, I could hear so many people listening to us and go, I get it, it’s not that difficult, tell me something cool, something complicated, something new and innovative and exciting. I don’t want to hear about this bullshit. And then that’s the little area of bullshit that’s holding them back in their life, holding back their startup from succeeding, these basic fundamental things that we don’t investigate enough.



Hiten: Couldn’t agree more. We’ll keep investigating.



Steli: We shall. This is it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.



Hiten: Cheers.