Have you ever taken a sip of sweet tea only to discover that it was soda instead? Eeww! What an eye-opening experience!
Don’t misunderstand; I like soda. But when I’m expecting sweet tea, the normally pleasant taste of the carbonated beverage is face-wrenchingly awful.
Thus, the importance of expectations.
What To Expect?
When working with your clients, your boss, your spouse, your kids, and everyone else for that matter, it’s critically important to set expectations. Let them know what to expect. Let them know when to expect it. Let them know any caveats that may exist. It gives them a sense of comfort.
As with the beverage example, expectations are important; the same result can be interpreted as good or bad depending on expectations.
If you promise a client that you’ll provide a deliverable in ten business days and you deliver it in seven, they’re very happy. Conversely, if you promise to deliver in five and you don’t have it ready until the seventh day, they’re disappointed. In both cases they receive the deliverable in seven days, yet in one case you’re a hero and in the other case you’ve failed.
How Can You Manage Expectations?
Managing expectations is not difficult. In fact, it’s straightforward.
- Under Promise. Don’t over commit yourself. Examine your workload, your capabilities, your own expectations, and then build in some margin.
- Over Deliver. This go right along with Under Promise. Going the extra mile and exceeding expectations is a nice way to give them a sense of “wow”.
- Communicate Clearly. It’s been said that there are four components to communication: the sender, the message, the medium, and the recipient. A breakdown and any of those can lead to a misunderstanding. Make sure that the message that you intend to deliver is the one that is received.
- Communicate Frequently. Providing timely updates about the progress along the way is just as important as setting the initial expectations. Any delays, any changes to the initial expectations should be communicated early in the process.
- Be Honest. As the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Be honest with others. If you are unsure of the outcome, tell them. It’s better that they know this up front.
Managing expectations, it’s definitely a win-win.