Olly Headey

October 24, 2023

Have high expectations

The most common complaint I hear from founders/leaders in business is the number of people problems they have on their plate. It’s draining, distracting and demotivating. 

We invest so much time and energy trying to turn these situations around, yet they’re often only resolved when somebody leaves either by choice or by, er, strong encouragement. And this typically happens waaaaaay too late in the day. Often measured in years.

At some level this is kinda just life in business, but you can help yourself, big time, in two ways:

  • Document your company values, sure, but more importantly define clear expectations for each role and level in the business. These should cover skills, communication and engagement as a baseline. They should make clear what is expected of someone, day in day out, but also what one needs to accomplish in order to progress to the next level. You’ll need to talk to people 1-1 about their progression frequently. There should be no doubt, and you should be aligned on either side. 

  • Adapt your hiring process to specifically score and filter on these values and expectations. For example, if you find someone who is technically gifted beyond your wildest dreams but they seem to lack important traits in communication or engagement, don’t ignore these red flags. Filter on them, and be strict. You don't need to rush because you need fewer people than you think.  

A happy and productive team is one not beset with grievance and back-channel tittle tattle. Gripes in everyday life are normal, of course, just make sure you tackle them without delay through clear communication, frequent 1-1s and candid feedback using your values and expectations as your guide.


About Olly Headey

Journal of Olly Headey. Co-founder of FreeAgent. 37signals alumni. Photographer.
More at headey.net.