Managing Expectations

Several years ago a wise mentor told me the most important thing I needed to do as a project manager at the time, was to manage expectations. He meant my own expectations, those of the executives I reported to, those of the employees who would be impacted, and those of the customers who would also be affected. When I fully digested what he had meant, I was slightly overwhelmed at the responsibility. However, it proved to be the wisest tidbit that anyone in my work experience has ever shared and that is probably because of the sheer enormity of managing expectations well.

Life is full of expectations, we expect family and friends to behave in certain ways based on past experiences. We expect our business colleagues including customers to function and react in a particular manner. I am in the midst of having a house built, and I have expectations of my builder, the plumber, the garage door manufacturer, and on and on.

Although the builder is doing a wonderful job, he isn’t managing my expectations proactively and this has been a source of discontent for me. It isn’t serious but it is niggly and it would be exceedingly easy to correct by applying a few best practices. Sharing a written schedule, updating it monthly, and noting the risks and/or delays would help tremendously. But the builder is caught in that dilemma that many small business owners find themselves, somewhere between wearing all the hats and trying to not wear all the hats. That transition involves giving up some responsibility and control to another trusted person, so that the business can grow. Sometimes small businesses need an outside objective third party to help them navigate that emotional terrain. The builder will be a client soon.

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