Managing Expectations

Posted on December 29, 2011 by


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw 

Communicating effectively is one of the most important skills to develop in business. While there are several reasons why, one of the most important from a leadership perspective is to be able to adequately manage expectations – in other words, you must be able to help those you manage understand what to expect from any given scenario, from timelines to structure and protocol. By managing expectations, you are then able to stave off conflicts before they spring up.  

How can you communicate more effectively to help manage expectations?

  • Define expectations: Conflicts and frustration often arise from a lack of information. When initiating a project, be sure to help team members understand why the project is needed, what the plan is for addressing that need, and how you intend to execute that plan. As you set out to make the project happen, look for ways to build camaraderie and trust. A little goes a long way in creating connections among those who will rely upon one another’s skills and abilities to make a project become reality. Also, don’t overlook establishing expectations among your customers. Communicating with them that a much-requested product or service is in the works, along with periodic updates on progress, will do wonders for building buzz and assuring customers that their requests aren’t falling on deaf ears.
  • Explain the problem: It’s rare that a project – or anything in life, for that matter – will go according to plan. Consequently, you’ll have to redefine expectations and give updates on progress throughout the life of a project. While it can be intimidating to report that a project will be delayed, it’s better to communicate that up front than to let the initial timeline expectations linger unchanged. Of course, that said, reporting a delay should come only after your team has exhausted all options to make up lost time and get the project back on track.
  • Offer a solution: While it’s important to explain why a project is facing a setback, it’s even more important to follow up immediately with a solution of how you plan to amend the disruption. It shows thoroughness, proactivity, and accountability – all traits that merit respect. Be sure to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” as you present the solution to a specific audience, whether it be internal team members or customers. Addressing the needs of a specific audience will resonate better than general information to which they cannot easily connect.

Clear and continued communication is vital to keeping all of your shareholders informed on a project’s progress. By managing their expectations, you’ll be able to reduce or eliminate frustration and confusion – which, in turn, will reduce how much emotional energy they bring into their interactions with you on the subject. This serves to reduce the risk of potential conflicts, creating an environment of collaboration and understanding.

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