Expectation Management

Expectation as defined by Webster Dictionary "is the act or state of expecting"

Expectations Management is one of the key complexities facing an Organization which is essentially a well integrated Nervous System composing of its people.

Expectations are powerful. They touch deep emotional currents. They affect our personal dreams and values, our relationships. They can define our work and responsibilities. In short, they can control us.

Usually the power of expectation is beneficial; other times it can put us into a painful realm where no one can live happily. This is the place of unrealistic expectations—the ones we put on ourselves as well as the ones others place on us. Perhaps no group is more susceptible to this position than pastors, and no matter how spiritual we are, it can kill our desire to go on.

Expectations cut two ways:

1. They are a primary measure of your success. In your client's mind, satisfaction is how close you have come to their expectations. NOT how close you were to the wording of the contract or the scope of work or even the performance criteria, but to their expectations. It may not even be the actual results of the project but the process with which you arrive there.

2. Expectations drive all of your client's actions and decisions. It's not their everyday duties or their "assigned role" or your very rational explanations that drive them, but their expectations.

Conflicts, disagreements, disputes, and litigation are often born out of expectation gaps. Any time you're asked about an expectations problem, you may respond with questions such as: "How was this expectation set? Who set it? When did you find out about it? and: What have you done about it?" The reality is usually hidden in the answers to those questions.

The old management adage says: "You cannot manage what you don't measure." The same adage can be re-stated for project work: "You cannot manage expectations unless you monitor them." That requires listening to your clients. Better yet, hearing them and understanding them.

Once you have pinpointed the expectation and you know the source, it's time to play the influence challenge. This is what our managers usually meant when they said "manage their expectations." Often they overlook the setting and monitoring components and expect you to "talk your way" out of anything. But it's so hard to talk your way out of anything unless you address the root causes.

On the other hand, sometimes no influence is needed. Their expectations may be well founded, and we may be the one who needs to change our approach and style.

As a guide, the following points should be noted for proactively managing expectations:

  • Assertiveness
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Clarify Perceptions
  • Listen Persuasively
  • Guard against Conflicting Messages
  • Use Jargon with care
  • Identify Communication Preferences
  • Help Customers describe their Needs
  • Become an information gathering Skeptic
  • Understand your Customer’s Context
  • Try the Solution on for size
  • Set uncertainty Managing service Standards
  • When appropriate, Reward!
  • Build Win-Win Relationships.
  • Formulate an Action plan.

Managed expectations drive your success. Everything else is secondary.

Points to Ponder

A “NO” uttered from the deepest conviction is better and greater than a “YES” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble” - Mahatma Gandhi.

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy - H.W. Newton


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