Setting Expectations

It is now my second day on the job and I was thinking this morning about how to begin setting expectations with the SE Leaders on my team.  It is always a careful balance as you are the new guy and you are joining a team and group that they have spent a considerable amount of time building.  On the flip side, people always want to know what is expected of them and how to partner with their new leader.

I remembered that I had written an FY kickoff email to the SE Manager team a few years ago and highlighted many of those expectations.  Rather than rewrite the email I of course pinged one of them…. “Hey… do you remember that random email I sent 4 years ago on ‘doing the right thing’ do you still have it?”

Luckily I was able to find it and upon re-reading it I realized that it is still applicable not only to today, but also regardless of company.  I share it here as an example of being open with the team.  You will likely have your own views on each topic and you would express them in your own voice, but ideally the framework is useful.

Thoughts and High Level Expectations for our SE Leader team

As we kick off our partnership I wanted to drop you a note and give insight to high level expectations/guidance for ourselves as SE Leaders.  These are lessons learned I have had observed over time.  I fully expect these to evolve as I learn from each of you and continue to evolve.   Warning, the below is long but I wanted to make sure you had as much background as possible.
I appreciate OPEN COMMUNICATION and would love to hear your views, insights, opinions, and CANDOR.  It is OK to say – “Bill, this is all fine and dandy but I think you are full of crap on point X,Y,Z”.  I am OK with this – see points below on Devil’s Advocate and Feedback.  There is nothing better than uncovering ideas that are better.  There is no NIH (not invented here).  I am looking forward to an awesome FY16 and from the short time together I fully believe we have a super team to make that happen!

We each have activities and responsibilities, but it is the overall leadership we provide that will be the difference between success and failure.

  • Collaborate (Join the Team): How well do you work with your peers and team members?  Do you share ideas and look for win win?
  • Curiosity (Learning): This is not only technical skill set, but are you learning and developing as a leader and not just a manager?  When you make a mistake (we all do) are you learning from it?
  • Execute: Can you do the job, do you overcome obstacles?  Can you beat expectations?
  • Improve: This is where you start to add real new value.  Can you take an idea and grow it or scale it to deliver extra value?  For example, can you take the upcoming SE Summit and enhance it or ensure its success?
  • Innovate: This is innovation with positive business results.  Did you come up with an idea or find one, execute it, and add additional value to the business above what we do today?
Report-CardWe will define the requirements of (MANAGER PERFORMANCE MEASURE/TOOL) mapped to SE Leader as a team, but in terms of pay for performance, bonus’s, comp, etc I heavily weight to the areas above.  If you do CollaborateCuriosity, and Execution really well – than you are meeting expectations.  Blowing out your number, playing nice with others, and learning is just what we expect of each other as leaders.  To be exceptional a leader must also Improve and Innovate.  Did you in some way make those around you 5 or 10% better?  Did you run an initiative, sales campaign, or similar that grew the business at a faster than expected pace and then share it and scale it with others?
We will decide as a team how we will hold each other accountable and for what.  My role will be as a score keeper against those expectations.
Results not Activity/Status/Prestige
A core part of the (COMPANY) culture is SERVANT LEADERSHIP.  At the end of the day, we want people who strive to be their best and make others better and their customers better.  If we are successful at that everything else will come.
Hiring and Staffing
When we look for people we need to balance skill, expertise and attitude.  Given a preference I would ask us to look for not just those with X years of Y experience, but also those willing to go above and beyond and a pride for their work and business – many know this as the saying “Hire for Attitude not Aptitude”.  (  Marc Andreessen also has an applicable view  In (COMPANY) terms it is SCRAPPINESS and ADAPTABILITY.  Our business changes fast – we need fast thinkers, learners, those who have a PASSION to be successful, and those who will challenge status quo and drive us to new heights.  We need people (and have people) who go above and beyond not because they were told to, but because they want to.  They have pride and ownership of their work.
Diving Catch, Fixing, setting Expectations 
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Nov 21, 2011; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) dives over the pylon to score a touchdown in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Part of having pride in your work means you are ok with doing whatever it takes to ensure CUSTOMER SUCCESS.  Even a rich retail store owner will sometimes have to plumb the toilet in the public restroom.  We will always be faced with situations where our teams need to do dirty work and a diving catch, i.e. do an install, work a support case, or do an emergency demo.  However, after that diving catch is done have we fixed the root cause of the problem?  Did we set expectations with the requester?  If we had to do an implementation due to partner inability – what have we done to ensure that partner now has that capability once the fire drill is over?  If we had to do an emergency demo did you set expectations with the Sales member about how to go about scheduling demo’s in the future?

Investing for Scale
We are a growing business.  We can only scale and grow by running faster and faster for so long.  As we go we need to set aside time and effort to invest in a solid infrastructure so we can continue to grow.  Working harder not smarter will only take us so far.  For example do we need to train our Partners our extended teams?  Do we need to build a repeatable demo system or kits?  It is too easy to always say we are too busy to do this…  I would point to the concept of Pay Yourself First ( By investing time first – it is amazing how you realize how to still get the day job done.
“Do the Right Thing”
6d0a69502931bf1b997fb29371c72daaIn matrix leadership it is all too often easiest to avoid the tough discussion, try to make various people happy and try to play politics.  One way to avoid this is to strive to be open and always “Do the Right Thing”.  When making a tough decision, solicit input from your stakeholders and review the facts from multiple angles or sources.  Once done, do whatever you believe is the “Right Thing” for your customers and (COMPANY) overall.  In some cases this may not be what is best for either you,your team , or your stakeholders but is the best for the greater whole. When you make the decision be open and honest with why you made it.  In the end no one can ever question your intentions if you “Do what you believe is the right thing”.  It also helps you sleep well at night… “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” -Aristotle
Escalate & Heads up
If you are doing the right thing the rest of the (COMPANY) leadership, and myself, are here to support you.  However, if you think it will be controversial please be proactive about giving us a heads up on how we can help support you.
A rising tide raises all boats.  While I highly encourage friendly competition among you, we are all on the same team at the end of the day (and yes this includes our peers in EMEA/APJ).  As we win market share it helps us all.  Lets continue to pitch in to help others.  If we have great ideas or capabilities lets share that.
I encourage each of you to own your business.  It is your number and your team.  There will always be some Americas or Company level initiatives and goals but overall it is your business to run.  Free to take risks, fail, learn, and most importantly: be curious and improve.
My Role
My role is pretty basic
  • If something is broken or not working in 2 or more teams, I should take that on and fix it at the Americas or Company level.  
  • If something is working very well in one team, I should figure out how to scale it to the others.
Beyond that are the standard items such as develop the team (leadership for you and technical and sales mastery for the SE’s), be in front of customers, and making things happen.
Area Directors
You will each be aligned to multiple Area Directors (AD).  The best way to operate with them is to be a business partner.  Each of you will have your strengths.  Find out how you can complement each other.  This may result in you doing some things that may not be a typical SE Leader responsibility or them doing non-AD like things.  Second – understand the business and have ideas on how to grow it.  Don’t just wait to be told what to do or where to go (not that you would 🙂 ).  One of the best quotes from an AD I have worked with about the SE team is:
  • “Your aligned SE – recognize immediately that these folks are your competitive differentiation.  They are the best of the best and you need them so much more than they need you right now.  You will treat them with the utmost respect and reverence.  On your watch, they never buy their own lunch…become their firewall, their advocate, their partner.  Do not let them down. “ 
One on Ones
I will schedule weekly or bi-weekly one on ones with you.  This time is your time.  A typical agenda is covering things that are top of mind for you and what you need.
  • Hot topics from you
  • Hot topics from Bill
  • Customer Opportunities
  • Staffing: Recognition, Concerns
  • Internal Alignment: issues, positives?
Communication Preferences
tin-can-telephoneFeel free to reach out to me at any time.  My iPhone is never far from my side.  I do tend to be pretty bad with phone calls and voicemail.  The challenge with those mediums is I am often on conference calls or meetings and it is difficult to grab that.  I read every single email and strive to have a zero inbox every evening.  Email is great as well as IM or SMS txt.  You will often get a quicker response that way than voicemail.  What are your preferences?
One of the most valuable things we can do is give feedback to each other – honest, candid and constructive.  When we do something, ask “What were my rose petals and what were my thorns?”. Don’t give each other the good old thumbs up “Good Job!” and a wink.  The best thing I can do for you is to try and hold a mirror up to and offer the feedback of what I can see and what others see.  This could be on your performance, your career, etc.  Only through your success and growth will we all be successful.
Devil’s Advocate
al-pacino-devils-advocateIn our one on one’s or meetings I often will play the role of Devil’s Advocate.  This can be offsetting (annoying/frustrating) at first as it will seem that your new manager is questioning everything or arguing all your points.  I do this so we can vet the ideas in a safe environment before moving on to external stakeholders.  Other times it will be because I have the same view as you and I am exploring for pitfalls or weaknesses in the approach and hoping you can help.  If the debate or questioning is too intense it is OK to say “timeout”!  See the topic above – feedback. 😉
You know your business the best.  As a team we will sit down and plan for FY17.  We will identify the main areas we can impact, what we need to continue doing, and what activities we can automate or offload altogether.
If you are still with me, fantastic!    I am looking forward to an amazing ride!

6 thoughts on “Setting Expectations

  1. A very thorough article Bill! One thing I learnt in my previous pre-sales career was the importance of managing my relationship with the sales rep (s). We have all had the experience of being asked to do a last minute Demo to an unqualified lead which then goes wrong. So giving SE’s the tools to help sales qualify and step into the role of trusted advisor benefits everyone.


    1. That is a great point and a topic all into itself. I will add it to the list of future posts. In fact I would like to ping a peer group of mine and collect their strategies. For example one of the SE leaders at another company had a Drop the Mic award which they have to the best Sales Rep that treated the SE well and did something the SE needed. The sales reps would really compete to win it. I love that idea


      1. Great that you are interested in this and do reach out if you want my perspective on this too. In my tech career I transitioned from pre-sales to sales so experienced the challenges on both sides.


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