Setting Expectations: How to Get What You Want

setting expectations, communicating expectations, how to get what you want

Having others deliver your desired results

A good first step to having others deliver your desired results is to clearly communicate expectations. Lately, I am reminded of how crucially important it is to set clear and explicit expectations in order to achieve the optimum results with the least amount of ambiguity and inefficiency.


Expectations are real important!

Most of us know how important it is to create expectations, but often we forget or get lazy in their creation, which brings us headaches and frustration. Too often, we create fuzzy expectations or even worse, we do not express them fully. When we assume certain expectations and they are not met we feel upset, letdown and hurt.


How not to set them:

Have you ever been in a meeting where the boss says, “Can you take care of those project specs?” pointing to the whiteboard. You say “sure, no problem” and that’s the end of it. This opens Pandora’s box to all kinds of unmet and unsaid expectations. What does “take care” mean? When does he want them completed? How does he want it done?


Setting expectations:

So what is the basic formula to set proper expectations? A good start is to jointly agree upon the following:

  • Specific deliverable or result
  • Clear timeframe or timeline
  • Who will do what?
  • How will we know the result has been met?


A better way:

“John, can you write-up the project specifications for the new metal press?” “Sure Bill, when would you like the specifications completed and how would like them to look?” “Let’s use the standard spec template and can you have them to me by the end of next week?” “Would you like the specifications emailed or is a paper copy on your desk ok?” “Just shoot me an email by end of business next Friday.” “Ok, I can do that.”

Two key pieces that overlay the entire process are asking the right questions and listening clearly to the answers given.

Clearly communicating and agreeing to expectations is a good practice in all aspects of your life, not just your professional life.

What are your thoughts? What else is important in setting clear expectations?


Derek Lauber, ACC

image courtesy:o5com

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