The Secret to Happiness when Hiring External Consultants

Those who know me – know that I often say “the secret to happiness is low expectations.” While there is an element of truth to this, and it is usually good for a laugh, the real secret to happiness in business is CLEAR expectations.

Without clarity, clients don’t know what to expect from vendors and external consultants, and can be unhappy. Project scope can become contentious and schedules are at risk, because there are different ideas about what was included and planned and what was not.

When a company hires outside expertise, they have certain goals and expectations as to what will be accomplished or which problems will be solved. Because they are typically hiring specific expertise, it is not reasonable to assume they will automatically have the same background and expectations as those they hire. This means there is an additional obligation to ensure any scope of work is clear and understood by all parties involved.

Additionally, this communication and clarity need to be shared by all relevant levels within each organization. A little more diligence in this area returns huge benefits in terms of better deals and more successful projects and engagements.

Clear expectations can impact a company internally as well. Employee morale is reduced when people don’t know what is expected. Everyone wants to feel like they are doing a good job, and that ability hinges on having clear direction and expectation of performance. This allows people to evaluate themselves in advance and know how they are doing.

It should be noted that clarity of expectations is much easier said than accomplished. We unintentionally make assumptions about what others know and expect, because we are all unique and bring different knowledge and experience to every situation.

This explains a lot of the differing perceptions around Millennials and their ambition and performance in the workplace. Unwritten rules and expectations often come into play, and employees may not realize they are not meeting expectations.

The best way to address lack of clarity is twofold:

  1. Try to state the important expectations you have – the things that make or break customer projects or employee performance. Documenting these is best – but at a minimum, a detailed conversation is required.
  2. Ask questions to ensure there is understanding and allow time for adequate discussion.

There may not always be complete agreement – but at least there is a better chance potential conflict items are brought up, discussed and hopefully resolved earlier in process – which saves time and money and ultimately, makes everybody happier.