Reset an expectation this week

In your business relationship life, nothing is worse than missing expectations. But we do it all the time. We establish an expectation that we’ll finish our part of a project by Friday and routinely ask for an extension the following Monday. We get sloppy about missing our marks until someone gets bent out of shape — usually because they are process-driven and we make them crazy.

When someone tells you to expect one thing and then he or she delivers something else (or nothing), you go through a series of negative emotions. You feel duped, stupid. You feel like your feelings don’t matter. You feel like no one takes you seriously. You feel under pressure because you’ve set expectations down the line and her failure will have a domino effect on your credibility. These negative feelings make us less likely to believe this person in the future; or do business with him.

Why do we do this? We want to do everything for everybody. Sometimes we put too much on our plate, giving truth to the old charge that “your eyes are too big for your stomach.” Sometimes we want people to like us, so we promise anything and then later come to our senses — yet do nothing to reset the wrong expectation.

Whatever we do, we don’t routinely review commitments and tease out the ones that need a reframe or a reset. This week, find one expectation that you’ve set that needs to be changed. Look through your project list or better yet, take out a piece of paper and write down all the expectations you’ve set for things you’ve promised to deliver.

If you promised a deliverable by the end of the month and its clear that you won’t finish until Feb, reach out now in the middle of the month and reset. Don’t focus on the excuse, focus on setting the correct expectation. If you have agreed to turn in a project, but fear that the quality of the work will not be up to snuff because of either time or resource limitations — reset that expectation. If you’ve offered to do a favor (OK, been hookwinked into it) but cannot, tell the promisee that you cannot or will not be able to help and give them a single but firm reason as to why.

These are not pleasant conversations, but you can find them if you’ll thoughtfully make a list of commitments and their delivery dates — and then review it for potential resets.

This week I am going to let two vendors know that I will not finish a deliverable to them (that will get them going on a project) due to my writing assignments related to my new book and a pressing meeting coming up in New York. Those vendors would much rather that I deliver the work to them this week, but will appreicate my candor even more. Try this, I did. Feels kinda good.

If you do this every week for the next two months, you’ll find that the quality of your set expectations will be much higher. And believe me, meeting your expecations is fundamental to your personal brand. It is also fundamental to your perceived integrity, dependeability and honesty too. Expectation management is as important as budget management. Maybe even more important.

Recommended: Keeping it real section in The Likeability Factor: How To Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams (my second book). In this section there are several techniques to maintain alignment with reality and your external promise. Of of those exercises is the practice of running a correction when you get something wrong.