4 ways to manage your bosses' unrealistic expectations

Demanding bosses can be good for you, too. Picture: Dreamworks

Do more with less and deliver it tomorrow.

That’s how it sounds when asked by senior management to deliver against a set of expectations you believe to be completely unrealistic.

Regardless of whether it’s a revenue target you don’t believe is obtainable, a new account quota you don’t believe your team can meet, or a mix of product and service sales you’re told the company needs that you don’t see possible, you have to manage unrealistic expectations.

Every manager faces that challenge time-to-time and often the success of a company (and more importantly, your career) is determined by how those expectations are managed internally and communicated externally.

Managing expectations is a balancing act managers need to perform that’s critical to a company’s success. Here are four things to keep in mind when dealing with unrealistic expectations from senior management:

1. Address the issue of expectations as soon as you realise they are unrealistic.

First and foremost, the moment you realise senior management’s expectations are unrealistic, you need to raise a flag. Obviously, you need to do a level of due diligence in your belief expectations are unrealistic, but you don’t want to let unrealistic expectations sit too long unchallenged.

Assuming expectations are truly unrealistic, you need to start that conversation sooner than later – you don’t want senior management sharing unrealistic expectations with stakeholders. The result could be a loss of confidence in the company, business unit or you.

You need the right tools. Picture: Warner Bros

2. Don’t whinge about why you can’t meet expectations, ask for what you need to meet them.

Senior management doesn’t want to hear you can’t meet their expectations. And the last thing they want to hear is you whinge about them – that’s a great way to limit your career.

Instead of explaining all the reasons you can’t meet expectations, shift the discussion to everything you need to meet them. This changes the conversation and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate why an expectation may be unrealistic as things are today, giving senior management a perspective of the business they otherwise may not be aware of.

3. Understand why the expectations you’re asked to meet are important.

You know your part of the business and what it takes to be successful day-to-day, but you may not be fully aware of why the expectations of senior management are important to the company or stakeholders.

Talk to senior management about the driving forces behind their expectations and seek an understanding of what is trying to be achieved – you may be one part of a larger initiative. With more understanding, you can be at your creative best and may be able to achieve a greater goal with a reworked expectation of your participation.

Be resourceful. Picture: BBC

4. Focus on the resources needed to meet expectations.

Almost anything can be done with unlimited time, people, and money. That’s both not the point and exactly the point at the same time.

Unrealistic expectations may be realistic if you have more resources. Without going overboard, identify the resources you need to be successful and outline how those resources will be used. Be realistic.

Managing unrealistic expectations is a negotiation. If you’re asked to do something that’s unrealistic, focus on the things you can achieve, seek a deeper understanding of what is trying to be accomplished, and focus on what you need to be successful. This is your best approach to achieve a win-win situation and set yourself up to be the ‘go-to’ person to achieve results.

Pree Sarkar is a sales recruitment expert and consults to global and start-up Software and IT Services companies. Pree is the Director of Searchcraft, which recruits top sales performers for technology companies.

This article first appeared on Searchcraft’s blog.

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