Expectations – they aren’t just your own ;-)


We all have them.

We try to capture and document them.  We all hope (or assume) that we have enough common starting ground that our documentation of these expectations makes sense.

We talk about concrete things like “I will give you X percentage of X profits.”  We try to manage the informational flow with things like “The consultant has a 2 week turnaround after the deliverable  is signed off on by the project manager.”

We list Requirements, Deliverables, Benchmarks, Resources, Allocations, Budget, Schedule, Dependencies, Roles, Responsibilities and hopefully even Goals 😉  But in regards to change and expectation management we rarely talk about the other expectations…

There are so many other types expectations projected on processes that are difficult to account for.  Things like cultural and behavioral and even emotional expectations.  I have watched these kill projects and partnerships esp international ones.

And while this seems too fuzzy or emotional to address, you would be surprised at how often it happens. We human beings enjoy working with people we like and trust.  If those emotional needs are not handled they can start to cause problems in communication over Resources, Schedules, etc…  If fundamental levels of trust cannot be supported this whole glass house of partnership can begin to fail on a basic communication level of shifting sand.  Perceptive filters are incredibly important. And a negative filter will kill a project or partnership.

So being the touchy feely girl that I am, I would add to the expectation management portion – an understanding of cultural, emotional and behavioral differences.  Trust is an essential cognitive filter in regards to understanding language and communication with others.  Once it is gone it is difficult to recover a level of positive communication that is needed to handle expectations properly… probably because those “expectations” can obtain a very tarnished filter.

Projects are always risky.  You can try to enumerate the risks at the beginning.  But the true interpretation of risks in that of perception which is often colored by the belief of intent.  The real risks are the unknown unknowns that you can’t enumerate at the beginning of the project that your partners have to believe you honestly did not see.

Also emotion affects perception, if communication is hurt then you can be perceived as underperforming even when technical expectations are met.

I think this is a substantial trap that women deal with often in the work place.  I can say the exact same thing as a man.  I don’t mean I say things that have the exact same meaning… I mean I say the exact same words.  And simply because I am in different packaging ( like a dress ) it will be heard differently.  This can be positive and negative.  I have had my looks and friendly approach guarantee I don’t set off Alpha Male paranoid in regards to position.  But it also means that I have to reframe myself at times in regards to leadership roles.  Awareness is key.

At no time forget that perceptive filters are in place.   Active listening i.e. repeating back your interpretation is crucial to creating accurate filters.  As I learned in India, Also have them also repeat back to you what they understood your requirements to be.  And never forget to check in with cultural experts and liaisons…