It’s All About… Managing Expectations

Managing expectations is not a term people think about when taking a trip or going to a party, but the act has become part of my daily routine. To me the actions behind this phrase is something I try to practice on a regular basis.

  • When going to a party with my wife I talk to her about how long she would like to stay.
  • When planning a trip I try to talk through with others who will be on the trip with me, as well as self reflect on, what each person want from the trip. is it a sit-on-the-beach type of trip or is it an explore-all-of-the-sights trip.
  • When doing IT project management at my work, clearly defining the project’s outcomes is exactly this, ensuring all stakeholders are working toward the same vision.

Although doing this is not imperative as in many situations all people want the same thing, but I’ve been surprised about how different people’s desires are. When my wife and I took a sailing trip with 2 other couples many years ago, I asked the question “What are your expectations for this trip” and I got very different answers than what I was thinking. My goal was to be able to spend time just relaxing on the boat, but one other person really wanted to do a lot of exploring on shore of the various places we stopped. Having verbalized that beforehand allowed me to understand where he was coming from and not be upset when he constantly wanted to leave the boat. At the same time I hope it helped him understand my frame of mind as well.

The application of this can be very useful in work settings, not just as a project manager. As a people manager it’s beneficial to understand what your staff’s expectations of their work environment and outcomes. In most cases I have found that people just want to feel successful in their jobs, but different people define success as different things. Having a conversation with each staff member, listening to that person’s definition of success and clearly defining what the organization considers success for each person’s position allows a discussion to occur where both the manager and staff member can come to an agreement.

When I say “It’s all about Managing Expectations” I can’t point to a specific thing to say, clarify who should participate or even give ramifications of not doing it since each situation is different. But I definitely see the benefits when I do.