Exceptions versus reality graphic

We all know that sometimes living up to others expectations isn’t exactly easy. All too frequently we hear “It’s always been this way and it’s too late to say anything now” or “I just don’t know what they expect of me” (despite the fact that you’ve worked with the person for three years). So should you continue to bury your head in the sand and suffer whilst trying to reach some unclear expectations that may be correct or assumed (or that may in fact be self-inflicted)?

The reason that most projects or working relationships fail is that people aren’t aligned on what is expected of them. We regularly facilitate workshops with clients on how to align these expectations by communicating each parties needs and then coming to a shared agreement of how we will operate to ensure a best for project mentality. However, a lot of expectation issues or challenges occur in day to day operations of organisations which can be a huge detriment to the ongoing success of an organisation and its people. If it’s trying to be clear on expectations with someone you already work with, whether that be a manager, direct report or even a colleague it can sometimes feel like you may have left it too late to say anything for fear of rocking the boat.

Well, that annoying saying is true – when there’s a will, there’s a way. The first step is to set aside some time to talk to the other party about aligning on these expectations. Expectations aren’t a one way-street – we each have them of not only others but ourselves. All too frequently people are surprised by how many of these expectations are self-imposed. It’s important to realise that having these conversations isn’t about trying to add more to your workload, dump work on someone else or have a whinge, the purpose of the conversation is to be clear on how you can focus your energy and time so that you can work on what really adds the most value to your project/organisation/working relationship.

Being clear on expectations helps you to build stronger relationships with people. It also contributes to a more constructive, effective and efficient working environment as it removes the uncertainty and frustrations that come with trying to work out what somebody is actually expecting of you.

It’s never too late to ask the question of what someone expects and align with your own expectations. So set aside some time today and ask. The answer may surprise you, make the relationship stronger and enable you to deliver better outcomes together.