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We all have them of our coworkers, clients, suppliers, service providers, employers, and each other. Rarely however, do we bother to communicate them. At times, our expectations may turn out to be unrealistic or simply not aligned to desired actions and outcomes, established norms, or set performance or quality standards. It is at the point when they are not met or fulfilled, that we experience some measure of disappointment, discomfort, frustration, and stress.

Some might even argue that we should not have expectations at all. This would be virtually impossible and seemingly unnatural, when one considers the modern, interconnected, and rapidly developing world in which we live and work. By not setting and agreeing on certain expectations at the onset of new projects or initiatives, teams may experience a lack of focus, inefficiency in the way things are done, poor quality outputs, wasted time and effort, disruption, inconsistency, and confusion. As an underrated and undervalued leadership skill, effectively managing expectations is one that should be more widely recognized and developed.


Practical Approaches

Leaders adept at managing expectations demonstrate a few key behaviours. Firstly, they continually communicate, organize, and direct discussions on how, when, and where things get done. They consider the inherent risks, identify potential issues, discuss the various options, and do not make assumptions about others' sighting and understanding of projects and situations. They are therefore always seeking clarification, context, and the inclusion of the opinions of others.

These leaders similarly define what success looks like and how both its progress and outcomes will be measured. They also communicate quite frequently and honestly, providing feedback, updates, reminders, and additional instruction when and where needed. We have noticed that they do not make promises which cannot be kept either, thus reducing the possibility of setting up their teams for potential disappointment or failure. Finally, they are humble, recognizing the need to be modest, mindful, respectful, and balanced in their approaches.

As leaders, it is important to remember that the mastery of any skill requires times, patience, and understanding. The process of change and maturity begins with us and extends out toward others. So, do not set your own expectations too high. Anticipate what others may expect of you and work to meet them where possible. Where things may go wrong or not according to plan, take a step back to evaluate the situation and reconsider your options. Finally, do not be critical of yourself and others, but simply continue to learn and grow from each experience.

This article was originally published to the Ikigai Consulting website on March 16th, 2021.