Expectations can drive desire for a stronger engagement or they can drive people away. For example, you want to purchase a new car and believe you know the value of your old car. Your research provided the estimated price for the new car. The simple math yields a cost difference and cash required to complete the new car purchase. The sales representative shows you a figure quite a bit higher than you expected. This causes you to become more concerned about the purchase and perhaps even sad. Alternatively, you are elated and try to close the deal immediately if the sales representative comes out with a price half what you thought would be required. Your expectations set your mood and actions.

Think about your customers the same way. Your sales pitch provides information regarding what they would obtain if they purchase your product. They set their expectations on product performance in their setting. If you did a great job, the product out performs or meets expectations. Otherwise, the customers will find the product less than advertised and they may feel disadvantaged.

You speak to your Board of Directors or your team to provide information regarding future or present performance. You put a positive spin on the presentation. If future performance is a match, you are safe because your listeners see even or better results. When the facts are too far out of alignment, they tend to believe you were dishonest or that you failed to meet your stated goals.

The value of setting expectations to match the future facts is essential to proper evaluation. Whether you are selling a product or a concept to management, your ability to convey accurate and proper expectations is extremely important. A commonly echoed motto by managers is; “Under promise and over perform.” This is a general rule that is great for all future CEOs to learn. Negatively surprising your Investors, Board, and Team is not the way to win friends and influence enemies. Positive surprises tend to work better than negative ones. Consider the following people next time you want to pitch any idea, product, or performance. Try to set their expectations properly.

1. Self: It is very hard to set expectations properly when your head is in the clouds and unable to visualize the up and down side. Coming to the realization of possible successes and failures and accurately communicating them is a skill you must develop. You will never be able to communicate them unless you learn to set your own expectations properly.

2. Team: Teams like to know your vision and expectations. They will follow your lead and drive to succeed, but it helps to have a touch of realism. The ability to help the team know the range of outcomes can prevent them from being too disappointed or too cocky.

3. Board: The Board must see both the positive side and negative side of the business. They have liability for the company and have the responsibility to ensure the performance is in the best interest of the shareholders. Continual positive pitches to the Board when there is also a downside is misleading. Always try to present balanced information and properly set their expectations.

4. Customers: One great way to make your customers unhappy is set their expectations too high for your products or services. After the purchase, they will gauge the product relative to your sales pitch. You want them asking for more of your product, not complaining to everyone the product did not meet their expectations.

5. Partners: Forming partnerships is a great way to combine forces to enhance ability to deliver goods and services. Your partners must have a fair understating of your ability to perform your side of the activity. They will become unhappy very rapidly if they see you are not as good or capable as your lead them to believe.

6. Investors: Watch any public company stock long enough and you can see what happens when investors become unhappy. Failing to meet the revenue projections or expected earnings can cause a stock to drop like a rock! Investors’ expectations that are set properly may have a lesser impact when they are not surprised.