by Greg Hofsted
Expectations can lead to problems and potential conflict in how we view our current circumstances, interactions with people, and overall well-being if not kept in check. Expectations are opinions and information about what the future might hold, based on strongly believed assumptions. We need to be more conscious and aware of the impact of our underlying beliefs and assumptions, as Albert Einstein noted, “Assumptions are made, and most assumptions are wrong.” Here are some strategies to avoid the pitfalls of unmanaged expectations.
Do not assume someone has the same understanding of a situation, deadline, task, or project as you do. Have an open conversation about how something will be accomplished, how success will be measured, and when deliverables are required. When in doubt, ask clarification questions.
Communicate, communicate, and communicate
If you want to avoid frustration, misunderstandings, and unmanaged expectations, communicate with everyone on a regular basis. If you have a new team or project, you may want to over-communicate. Key milestones, personal objectives, team deliverables—get them all on the table and have everyone’s buy-in to reach the common goal. It is important to flush out differing plans, unrealistic expectations, and potential obstacles. These are all healthy points for discussion. Even more important is being proactive when things start to go off the rails. Open, honest, and transparent communication is the key to allow for alternate decision-making and group input, to reach the desired goal or outcome.
Everyone has personal beliefs, biases, and opinions. The key is to understand the role of expectations in your everyday interactions with others. You need to remind yourself that goals are not the same as expectations. Goals are concrete statements based on reality and facts. Expectations are beliefs based on hope and opinions. Expectations are rarely stated in the open, they are usually hidden and somewhat subversive, unlike goals which are usually in plain sight for all to see. Being able to identify and navigate potential expectations will allow you to manage them…not the other way around.
Unmanaged expectations can lead to distrust, hurt feelings, and resentment. We can avoid these pitfalls by being more open and honest in our communication, thereby eliminating our expectations of others and expecting the same in return.