Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Managing Expectations

Managing expectations is one of those expressions to which we should pay more attention, but not in the way you might think. For most people in the professional services business, let's face it, managing expectations is code for lowering expectations. It's the time-honored practice of promising a Cadillac, but making sure the client is happy if you have to deliver the Chevy. The people who live this life of managing expectations bristle at the David Maister(s) and Marshall Goldsmith(s) of the world who have built their reputations on telling clients to pay only what their performance was worth, or nothing at all, if they don't meet or exceed expectations. But we'll save that for another time.

Fortunately, we're not headed down that road today. What I mean by managing expectations is managing our OWN expectations so they don't become obstacles to ourselves or to our clients. Ask yourself if you're the type of person who gets overly irritated when your 8:00 AM presentation starts a half-hour late. Or maybe you walk into an executive meeting assuming you're there to listen, only to be asked to "wing-it" to the leadership team. And God forbid, you learn that the plan for the day has been upended without your consent. Most of us run across hundreds of moments like this during the course of our careers. Today is as good a day as any to take stock of how you typically respond.

Your choices are simple: 1) Respond negatively by clinging to what was supposed to happen; or 2) Embrace what's about to happen. Your ability to manage your own expectations will indelibly shape the personal brand you share with your clients and co-workers. If you're rooted in what should have been, nobody misses that, and it does nothing but create additional stress for everyone.

Replace your negative reaction with the belief that you cannot control the past but you CAN positively shape the future. Try it the next time something doesn't meet your expectations!

Image from cioguy.com

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