Managing expectations. How often do you think unfulfilled expectations are the root of anger, frustration and disappointment for you and those around you?
How well do others know what your expectations are of them? How do you know what others expectations are of you? How well do you manage expectations?
I have learned that articulating and understanding expectations are a major contributor to really good communications; or conversely, that the absence of clarity or understanding of expectations can lead to all sorts of communication problems.
It is well documented that unfulfilled expectations are often the root of anger, frustration and disappointment.
Think about it for a moment. Go back to when last you experienced one or more of those emotions. Analyze the circumstances for a minute. What led to that emotion? Could it have been that you expected something from another that they didn’t fulfill; or vice versa, that you were expected to do something by them, but didn’t? Now think about the knowledge both parties had of the others’ expectation. Was the expectation known and understood, or was it maybe assumed to be understood because it was implied?
A large issue linked to managing expectations is assuming the other party knows what we need or want. Analysts and shareholders expect growing profits, right? But is that all that is expected, or is there maybe more? Is that an assumption based on boardroom or “whiteboard” discussion, or do they know that by having asking the shareholders what their expectations are?
Remember that the word assume actually contains three words: ass – u – me. So to assume runs the risk of “making an ass out of you (u) and me”.
Managing expectations – some examples
Project management 101 is to know who the stakeholders of your project are, and make it your business to go and find out what their expectations are. Good project managers will ensure that they always keep those stakeholders up to date on what’s happening in the project that reassures them it is on track to meeting or exceeding their expectations. More importantly however, is to alert them of problems as soon as they become evident, and keep them updated as to what is being done to remedy the problem. Even if this causes a project delay, I have learned that ongoing communication of remedial actions will keep them happy. Avoid that at your peril, because this will definitely lead to an unfilled expectation, and justifiably incur the deserved wrath of the stakeholder.
In leadership positions within corporate business, our success can be strongly influenced by how well we know and fulfill the expectations of our boss(es), our peers and also our subordinates. It is just as important in managing the relationships we have with our vendors and our customers. These relationships and outcomes are often enhanced by the degree by which we are able to “manage” their expectations. And you can only do that if you know what they are.
Perhaps you remember your early days of new management responsibility, where we run the risk of saying, agreeing to or raising expectation in order to “be well liked”? One typical such scenario I often use to illustrate this is where our manager might have made a “veiled insinuation” which we (mis)construed as a promise. It probably served as a big motivator adding to our “enthusiastic drive towards the cause”. However later it led to a major disappointment – even an undermining of trust – when it didn’t materialize; another typical unfulfilled expectation. (May I remind you here against making promises you aren’t sure you will be able to keep – it’s Management 101).
Delighted or disappointed?
My good friend and associate Steve Burman (http://businessabundance.com.au/) has made it his business to have good businesses focus on assuring their customers get repeated good service that meets or exceeds their expectations. It’s really not hard to do. It’s an attitude. And that’s what most of my coaching concept blogs are about: our attitude towards success. To me an important aspect of our success is having developed a track record of consistently and reliably having met or exceeded the commitments we have made, preferably having “under promised and over delivered”.
Good “spin” recognizes “what people might want” and raises our expectation of the desired outcome by reassuring us that in buying this product or service it will be fulfilled. However, how often have we been disappointed when the title or “back cover spin” of a book or the selected content in a movie trailer raises our expectation, leading to us buying the book or a ticket and then feeling “let down” when it didn’t meet that expectation?
I have learned that one of the tenets of good communication and of good management is not to assume that you know the other persons expectation. Good management will see you asking the other party what their expectations are and even more importantly how they will know when they have been fulfilled. I have found this to be particularly important in business, but just as valuable in life in general.
Perhaps a good remedy to avoid falling into this trap is to ask yourself: “what other expectation might this be trying to fulfill?”
If you remember my blog: Using “the Gap” to Reframe Yourself, isn’t this a great reframe?
Remember, we don’t see things the way they are. We see things the way we are. That has a tremendous bearing on our expectations. So if you are in position needing to or wanting to influence others, then knowing and understanding their expectations and then “playing” to those expectations is an important strategy to helping you to achieve the outcomes you want. This is what I mean by “managing expectations”.
I fervently hope that this article helps remind you of something we all take for granted, but often forget in our daily interaction with others. It is another good example of what coaches will help you focus on to raise your communication to another level and to help you and those you interact with on a daily basis to avoid disappointment, frustration, even anger, and to “over deliver” instead.