This article was originally published on EventMB & reprinted here with permission.
Bosses, Clients, and Co-workers…Oh My! 5 Ways To Manage Expectations
Do you find yourself constantly creating “miracles” or stressing over unrealistic expectations? Here are some tips to manage and maintain those high expectations from bosses, clients and co-workers.
“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
- Charles F. Kettering, American Inventor, Engineer, Businessman
I am a firm believer that high expectations are necessary for success, especially as an eventprof. In order to constantly design new and amazing experiences, we have to keep our expectations high and not become complacent and routine in our actions. We should always be looking for ways to improve, even if it means sometimes changing something that is not broken, but can be done better.
Expectations come from everywhere, including bosses, clients, and colleagues. By keeping your own expectations high, as well as everyone’s expectations around you, you are preparing yourself for success. With high expectations, though, sometimes comes conflict, disappointment, and resentment. While these may sound scary, don’t fear! Below are some ways to reduce the anxieties that come with not accepting anything but the highest standards.
Building a Team
Managing expectations, regardless of who is involved, starts the same way - with an excellent team of people. Trust and clear communication are traits of any good team. If you are in a position to create your own team, don’t be afraid of bringing in smart and intelligent people, even if they are more skilled at certain things than you. Surround yourself with the best and brightest people you can find. As Richard Branson said, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” When you have smart and intelligent people around you, you are able to have meaningful conversations that lead to meaningful decisions.
Working with exceptional people means that high standards become the norm, and are welcomed. Expectations don’t become a dreaded word or something that has to be mandated. High expectations become simply a way of life, as each person is intrinsically motivated to do the best job possible. If you find yourself not trusting your team, or mandating that they do a good job, you are setting yourself up for stress, and more than likely, failure.
As you build your team, or begin to learn your clients or colleagues, you must have clear communication. Just like any relationship, it takes work to be successful. While you are building trust, setting expectations, and beginning to determine what the ultimate vision will be, stay in frequent communication, providing updates along the way.
If everyone is on the same page, clear and high expectations are a wonderful thing. But, if everyone expects different things, those high expectations can cause problems, and even resentment. Everyone brings their own experiences, thoughts, and skills to a situation. What one person might think as amazing, could be seen as poor from another. When setting goals and expectations, your conversations must be open, safe, and honest.
Expectation v Reality
One of the biggest problems with high expectations is when the vision or theory does not match the actual reality. Whether it is a boss or client passing down a laughable and unrealistic deadline, or a colleague exaggerating a skill they have, problems occur when expectations and reality don’t mesh.
A good example of this is when a deadline or task has been passed down that has no chance of actually being completed successfully. It becomes one of those “magic” situations, where you are supposed to create a miracle. Even though magician eventprofs are known for their amazing miracles, it should not be an expectation. These stressful situations usually happen because of a skewed version of reality, and decisions made by someone without the knowledge to make the decision. When you include the experts in the planning, workable deadlines can be created with plenty of time to complete, without adding in the magic dust or creating more stress.
When a boss or client has an unrealistic expectation, tread with caution, but remain rational. Before panicking, take a step back a evaluate the situation. Is it actually possible and just something that you are uncomfortable with? Is it simply something that has not been done before? Remember that great new ideas often come from outsiders, who are not limited to the boundaries that we have placed on ourselves. Once you have honestly evaluated the situation, and determined whether the situation is unrealistic or simply new and uncomfortable, you can begin to start an open and honest conversation with those involved to form a logical and realistic plan.
Understand your limitations. If you want your expectations to meet the reality of your world, you have to be honest with yourself. If you know you or your colleagues need training to complete a specific task, don’t ignore it. While you may wish that you knew everything or had someone on your team that did, that may not be the case. Depending on the knowledge around you, a task may take longer than normal as you learn the skills needed to complete it, or it may even need the assistance from an outside contractor. Regardless of the situation, be honest with what you and your team are able to do and still meet the expectations. Understand that the situation, while not ideal, might take more time or resources than typically allotted. With enough pre-planning and honest communication, though, these situations can be addressed from the very beginning and not become an issue.
Beware of the this innocent-sounding four-letter word! It is one of those words that is way too small for it’s actual meaning. Just… It’s just a meeting. It’s just a few minutes. It’s just 5 quick calls. It’s just another email. It’s just knocking down a wall and putting in 500 more seats. It’s just moving one person in the seating chart. It’s just adding an internet connection two minutes before you speak. It’s just one more thing.
While I understand things come up that were not planned for, be aware of the ramifications of those additional tasks, and how they affect everything else. If a task is “just” given to you, the expectations need to be clear as to what that task actually consists of. If the task giver expects it to only take a few minutes, but there are valid reasons that it will take longer, that needs to be communicated.
This word needs to come with a disclaimer, accurately stating the amount of time that is involved with the “just”. The word “only” is another one of those 4-letter word to watch out for! With any new task comes numerous smaller tasks, or the postponement of other tasks. Understand that it is never just “just”. While it can’t be totally avoided, be aware of the amount of chaos that can ensue when “just” becomes a constant part of your day.
If expectations between all parties involved do not match, you are setting yourself up for stress, frustration, and even eventual resentment. While there will always be time crunches, unrealistic goals, or misinterpretations of a vision, with enough pre-planning and clear communication, many of these unnecessary situations can be avoided.
Whether you are working with a boss, client, or colleague, be sure to take the time to learn and understand each other. Be thorough, effective, and honest when you communicate. Once you are able to surround yourself with exceptional people, let them use their skills to help build the deadlines and expectations.
While we may need to use our eventprof magic wands at times, it should not be a constant part of your day. If it is, take a step back a look at your processes. Make sure your expectations are matching your reality.