3 Steps To Managing Expectations

Managing expectations takes commitment and patience. When expectations are managed everything works better – from your personal relationships / responsibilities to your professional relationships / responsibilities.

One of the key things we all have to remind ourselves when managing expectations is that it’s our responsibility to not only manage our expectations… we also must manage the expectations of others. 

Be Honest & Up Frontmanage expectations

Being honest and up front with yourself is critical to managing your expectations and only then, managing other people’s expectations.  If you really don’t want a meeting with someone, be honest about it.  If you are weighing your options and need more time, share how much time you think you’ll need.

You don’t want a reputation as a person who dodges people, is aloof or doesn’t do what you said you would. The wasted time, energy and opportunity lost is like a series of detours on your high-performance highway.

When you are upfront, straightforward and honest in your actions and language you demonstrate respect for yourself and the person / people you are involved with. In addition, managing expectations this way will positively add to your personal and professional brand / reputation.

Communication Skills

Communication is a two way street – therefore, in almost every case this means you have to enter into a dialogue – even if it is a short one.  When you are communicating successfully you are making sure your expectations are fully understood and, if appropriate, you are providing opportunity for input by those you are communicating with.

Communicating is rarely a one-way phone message or email

Communication also means being sure you are keeping the right people informed at the appropriate times.  This likely doesn’t mean Cc’ing your boss and all your co-workers on every email you send. Overuse of Cc: lowers everyone’s productivity… and is very frustrating. Appropriate communication is key.

Empathy is an important element of successful communication. Look and listen for what the other person might be feeling, thinking. Do they seem confused, worried? If so, what can you do to make the situation better?

If something is going wrong or not as expected, communication skills help you assess the situation, causes, risks, and potential solutions. Poor communication skills might be interpreted as accusations or blame.

Things to consider when communicating:

  • Everyone should trust that they are able to ask questions and share relevant information
  • Is it really urgent? Can it wait? Should you set an appointment to discuss?
  • Unless it is an emergency… did you share your discussion topic in advance?  If it’s a bigger and/or more important meeting, did you distribute an agenda so you both understand key points?
  • What is the best method to communicate?
    • Don’t communicate bad information by email
  • How much time do you have? If it’s a problem – do you have potential solutions? How often should you communicate?
    • Always bottom line your communication
    • Should you provide a summary with background information?

Note: Communicating under stress is very difficult and the potential for communication to not go well increases.  If you feel stressed:

  • Try to take a break
  • Realize it likely isn’t (hopefully isn’t), personal
  • Check that you are using empathy and trying to see the situation from every angle – not just your perspective

Face-to-face discussions are always going to be the best way for you to communicate sensitive information, complex information or when you need to brainstorm ideas.


Managing expectations requires everyone to be clear about what they expect… and what others should expect from them.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds as in our fast-paced lives we often see things only from the perspective of ‘how it impacts me.’

Another enemy of managing expectations is assuming others see things just as you do. I can guarantee they don’t. Everyone is different – as is their experience, education, motivators and goals… even if you work in the same department. It is therefore critically important that you uncover what others see as the priorities / next steps… and share what you see are the priorities / next steps.

Things to consider seeking clarity:

  • What are the objectives?I like knowing the objectives are S.M.A.R.T.
    • What are you responsible for?
    • What are others responsible for?
    • What is the timeline?
    • Why – to all of the above (knowing why helps motivate people and helps them respond to unexpected situations
  • What are the priorities?
  • What does exceeding expectations look like?


Managing expectations proactively is not so much a formula as it is using empathy to develop trust discussions with the people you live, love and work with.  No matter if it is personal or professional, managing expectations will certainly increase your chances of successfully reaching your… objective.

Happy communicating, creating workplace harmony and reducing employee turnover.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

One Response to 3 Steps To Managing Expectations

  1. Tim Herrera says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head when equating honesty with managing people’s expectations. As a communicator, if you are viewed as a straight talked, a straight and honest talker, people know how to work with you and what to expect from you. Thanks for the insight!

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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