Way back when I was at my investment banking internship, I had lunch with my boss. He was the Managing Director of Equity Capital Markets, which means he was in charge of all the IPO’s that the bank launched.
This lunch was part of the HR department’s advisor program for new interns.
Despite the lofty title, though, he was a nice guy. Kind of quirky (most investment bankers are), but genuinely a nice person with a good heart.
As we sat down to eat, he began to give me some tips on how to perform well at my new internship and what to do/don’t do on the job. Stuff like networking tips, who to reach out to, tactical advice for my work, and so on.
About halfway through our meal, I decided to ask him a question. I said, out of genuine curiosity, “What’s the hardest part of your job?”
He thought about it for a moment. He then told me:
“Managing expectations is the hardest, and will continue to be the hardest, part of my job. Clients will always have high expectations, but at the end of the day they‘ll always expect what I tell them to expect, and if they have higher expectations than we can deliver on, that’s my fault. And it still happens – we sometimes fail to meet expectations – but I always remember that the expectation is set on our end first, and if they get upset by what’s delivered, we either failed at our duty or I set expectations too high.”
I didn’t appreciate the gravity of that lesson until I started my own marketing agency. Clients are tough. And yes, they are sometimes unreasonable, but at the end of the day, nobody is holding a gun to any of our heads forcing us to work with someone.
It doesn’t matter how good of a job you do. If you set expectations too high, you’ll make someone upset. You could tell someone you’ll drop a million dollars in cash on their front doorstep, and if it arrives at their back door, you’ll get an earful.
There are always going to be expectations – the important part is setting the right expectation. After that, you have to work with people who will communicate with you and support you if and when those expectations aren’t met. That’s when you’ve found a true partner.