Two Keys to Success: Managing Accountability and Expectations


Sitting in a meeting this morning I had a particular “moment of clarity”, to coin a phrase from Pulp Fiction (and the Big Book).   A couple of simple concepts came to mind that can make a big difference in how things go in your work life, and home life too.

Two keys to success are centered around Accountability and Expectations.  Get those two figured out, and ingrain them into your life.  The result will be progress toward your goal.  The result will be success.

Let’s start with a couple definitions.

According to the dictionary, Accountability refers to “the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.”  In other words, it means being responsible, being aware, and taking ownership of any given task or set of tasks, and the associated outcome(s).  It means you won’t pass the buck. It means you have to be able to explain, if asked, what happened, whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise.

Under Expectation, you can find this definition: “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.”  Clarity in communication is critical to how expectations are conveyed.  If you’re the Setter of Expectation, you need to make things clear and concise to who ever is being given the Expectation to live up to.  Being reasonable, though a somewhat vague concept, is equally clear in setting expectations.  Empathy helps here also, to have some idea of what the other party is feeling and will experience when they try to live up to that expectation.

All pretty simple, right?  But perhaps somewhat opaque?

Here’s an example of how these traits played out in a recent business transaction.

There’s this one project I’ve been working on of late.  The buyer is in southeast Asia.  We were trying to get a deal done to sell a piece of equipment.

We’d sent the proposal a while and the buyer came back interested in making a purchased.  We’d gone around on the commercial terms, including financing, logistics, etc.  Before long we came to agreement.  We offered a discount for a favorable payment term. They seemed pleased with that.  We thought we were on our way.  Expectations had been carefully and completely worked out on both sides.  We expected the order to come any day.  And it did.

Then the unwieldy bureaucratic requirements by the buyer’s central office stepped in the middle of the road.  Sent with the order was a separate agreement document that needed to be included.  This requirement was in addition to the standard purchase order document and involved quite a few (proposed) clauses/requirements.  We had done a few other deals previously with this buyer, but no such agreement had been required.  Expectations changed.

The agreement needed original signature and countersignature to proceed.  No money could change hands until the agreement had all the required sign-offs.  Sigh.

We reviewed the document with our legal department and by and large were ok with the agreement language.  We struck two sections from the agreement, which the buyer accepted.   This approach and related result was promising.  There was give and take.  We were in agreement with amendments. Things were aligning reasonably.

We sent the original signature agreement document via courier service.   A week later it was delivered, but the buyer then explained they really needed two copies, not one.   They hadn’t mentioned this clearly in previous communications.  We would have to send a second set via courier.  Nominal, extra costs would be incurred.

The cost of shipping across the Pacific is not cheap. Doing it twice is (obviously), twice the cost. Every dollar counts. Every dollar spent on costs not accounted for in pricing cuts into profits.

As a show of good faith and to get the deal done, we agreed to split the courier service charges with the buyer.  Fortunately we were able to create Accountability for both sides, and bring the deal close to fruition.

By creating and managing expectations and accountability through the process, we were able to reach mutual concession and thus, move the deal forward to close.

At least I hope so.  We’ve followed a good process to manage two of the factors that are critical to positive outcome:  Accountability and Expectations.

The deal’s not done yet tho’.  We’ll see.  ONWARD.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s