Setting Expectations

Joan* moaned to me yesterday that she is expected to put in extra hours this coming weekend to rush completion in a major project that is due next week. This means an end to our weekend luncheon date at our favourite restaurant. Feeling something’s amiss, I asked why is she alone in this major project, from her previous conversation with me, I understand she has a strong team at her disposal to complete the project in time.

The issue here she didn’t set everyone’s expectations correctly in the first place. Her boss gave her a deadline that was 3 weeks which was pretty tight for a major project which involves the overhaul of all the in-house sales processes. Her team very much experience in writing sales processes, are also overwhelmed with other ongoing projects which deadlines clashes with hers. On top of that, she have her current tasks at hand which requires immediate attention all the time.

So what could she have done to meet her deadline?

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.29.44 pmBoss
– Try to ask for an extension of 1 month to give herself more buffer space.
– Request for someone to take over some of her current tasks perhaps a junior staff, negotiate that she could pay fuller attention to the project and yet train another person to take over some of her tasks.
– Have a regular check in session per week with the boss to update him on the timeline and the status of the project

file8871263244366Team
– Hold a meeting with all of them at the start of the project. Help them to understand the requirements and set expectations on the deadline. Let them know in advance your expectations and be ready to field any questions they will have about the project.
– Understand their ongoing projects at hand. See if there is a possibility to shift some of the projects off to one or two persons instead of them each having projects. This will free up some of the team members to dedicate themselves to your project.
– If it is not possible, try to negotiate with the other project owners to see if they could extend their projects deadline.
– Work with the team to get a dedicated daily time allocation to work purely on her project.
– Always have a regular twice a week check in with all the team members to see where they are at in the project and if they are struggling, what she can do to help them.
– Set the expectation that they may need to do overtime work but let them know, if it’s required, she will let them know at least a day or two in advance.


file9351280949202Herself
– Remember that she have resources at her disposal. If required, ask for more help.
– Be ready to be running all over and jump in to help when needed. She will have been prepared herself mentally she might do a lot of hands on work.
– Be on top of things. When require to make tough decisions, be proactive about and face the challenge head on. Don’t shrink away when your team members need you and don’t shift responsibility.

There are too many people out there struggling to stay afloat when expectations are not set correctly in the first place. This doesn’t only happen in the workplace but in our daily lives as well. Parents expecting their only child to contribute to household allowances when he or she is recently retrenched. Husband expecting his wife to juggle both her career, the children and the household chores. Even your friends will expect you to drop everything at a snap of their fingers to be with them because of yet another failed relationship.

As cruel as it may seem, you need to set the correct expectations otherwise you’ll be the one who is drowning. Setting expectations in the beginning will help the other party prepared themselves at what extend to ask from you.

For example, I will let my loved ones know a few months in advance that I’m going to quit my job so they won’t have expectations from me that I can still contribute to the household allowances as lavishly as I once could. Another example, I always tell my boss informally in June if I know I am going to take a two weeks holiday end of the year so she’ll avoid assigning big projects with longer timeline nearing November. This works out well as this allow my family to adjust their expenditures and my boss to plan ahead of my absence.

People hate surprises that doesn’t come together with delight at work. It will leave them helpless, unable to aid even if they want to. The “if I had known earlier, I would have….” thought would be in their heads when you confessed you couldn’t handle the work involved or hand in the work in time. So don’t be in that situation, take control and set a lower expectation, then delight them when you exceed their expectations, giving them a good impression of you.

Does this advice makes sense to you? Leave me your comments below and share with me your stories. I love to hear from you!

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