Clarifying expectations

Disappointment.  You can sense it in facial expressions, body language, and the tone of voice.  Whether is happens at work, at home or your volunteer activity, it not only feels lousy, but it affects how people view your performance overall.

I’ve learned that the best way to not only avoid disappointment, but also to ensure strong performance, is to actively engage in understanding and setting expectations.  It also helps you prioritize your time and avoid putting in more effort than is needed.  This strategy works in all settings.

When your boss asks you for a deliverable, be careful of just saying “ok”.  Discuss what specifically needs to get done.  Questions such as: by when?; in what form?; who is the ultimate audience?; etc… will help you to meet and possibly exceed expectations.  It can also prevent you from going overboard, as I once did.

Early in my career I was asked to collate action items from various long-term plans across a department.  I was anxious to do a good job.  I worked late into the night creating a format that really looked nice and turned a simple spreadsheet into presentation grouped by department, color coded by timeline, etc...  I was very proud of the finished product.  When I gave it to my boss he said, “Wow Shellye, this amazing, but all I really needed was a simple spreadsheet”.  Lesson learned.  Understanding and setting expectations works both ways.  I could have used those hours I wasted on something that actually mattered to my performance.

Setting expectations works well with personal commitments also.  Whether it is a commitment to do household chores, attend children’s activities, or volunteer, set the expectations from the start.  Early in my marriage, when my husband asked me to do something and I agreed to do it, he always assumed I’d get it done right away.  I always added it to my list and would work toward getting it done.  After instances of frustration, nagging and anger, we learned to make sure expectations were clear on both sides.

Bottomline, take the time to ensure expectations in all situations.