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Deliver What You Promise; Receive What You Expect…

Expectations are tough, aren’t they?  Consciously or unconsciously, we form them for every situation and are often disappointed in outcomes.  Have you ever wondered why that is or how you can change it?

A few years ago, I decided to invest in a company after hearing the pitch from the CEO and his advisor. Promises were made during that pitch, and none of them were met.  Those promises set high expectations that were later blown out of the water.  I know most of you are thinking, being prepared to take losses is part of investing. I agree with you, mostly, if management communicated realistically and kept its investors informed, we would have had different expectations or at least adjusted them.   It’s even likely we would feel differently about the outcome, as well as the company itself.

In my past lives (I have more than a cat!), I ran large scale projects, but delivered very few in the original timeline.  This may sound bad, but situations changed as they always do with long timelines.  A customer’s needs, priorities, and circumstances change over time, as does the external environment.  With each change, the one thing I did consistently was set new expectations and communicate them clearly and often.  When situations change, communication is paramount, and it works.  I may not always deliver good news, but I work hard to set reasonable expectations and it makes all the difference. Of course, we all work hard to meet expectations, but if something else changes, I press the reset button and communicate new expectations.

Think about when you call customer service and can’t get through.  That is always frustrating; the good news is, today’s technology allows for call backs. Let’s assume in this case the call is promised within an hour. The call though, is actually returned in two hours; your expectations aren’t met, and now you are annoyed.  In fact, you may even complain loudly to anyone who is within earshot.  Let’s take that same example, but instead of an hour, you are promised a call before the end of the day, and you receive one.  Although that returned call comes much later than the call in the first example, chances are you are not annoyed. In fact, there is a very good chance that you are pleasantly surprised, pleased, and likely to comment positively on the experience because the company met your expectation.   The difference is, expectations were set, communicated, and delivered as promised.

There are so many examples of this in daily life; we create expectations and are disappointed when they aren’t met.  Whether it’s a movie everyone talked up, a restaurant with great reviews that didn’t live up to them, or the or the job you took at that company that promised the moon and delivered nothing.

Expectations aren’t bad; they are good, and they are a part of life.  But whatever side you are on (forming them or setting them for others), reasonable expectations are important.  If you set an expectation for someone, deliver on it (or at least communicate what changed); otherwise, the receiving party will probably not be happy.

In other words, deliver what you promise and receive what you expect.


“The quality of our expectations determines the quality of our action.” – A. Godin


What is your expectation this weekend?

Have a great weekend.