Six Keys to Successfully Managing Expectations


Whether you’re working for yourself, or supervising multiple employees, managing expectations is a priority in maintaining a healthy and thriving relationship with employees or clients. Most importantly, managing expectations is a matter of communicating thoroughly. Don’t assume that the client will know what to expect or your employee understands the steps to promotion – it’s up to you to define expectations.

Here are the six keys to managing expectations that Bahar Consulting practices when we work with organizations striving for excellence.

1. Be Honest and Know Your Capabilities

Before you commit to anything, it’s important to understand the capabilities of the team, or individual. Employees may often commit to a certain goal, without really thinking it through. Knowing the skill levels of the team will likely help you and others understand what is possible. Once you assess the skill level of an individual or team, you can make an educated decision on possible outcomes. Forward progress will be blocked if everyone agrees to an outcome without having the skill level needed. Progress will also be blocked if the outcome is not clearly defined.

2. Set Clearly Defined Expectations

Expectations need to be defined early in the process. They should be clear, without any room for interpretation. Expectations should also include more than what is required to complete the project. You should set expectations on how your team should work together – or how your employees work with the customer. Expectations should include a schedule of when to meet and what requirements will be expected at each meeting. Be detail oriented. Don’t assume that your thoughts are understood by employees and clients. It’s equally important to determine how progress will be measured and what happens if priorities shift. Setting appropriate expectations can avoid difficult conversations later.

3. Educate and Empathize

Unless you educate your customer, or your employee, you cannot truly reach an agreement. If you do, not everyone will know what they are agreeing to. Discuss the work involved and the time and resources needed to accomplish the goal. By doing so, your customers and employees retain the knowledge and appreciation of the work involved. It is equally important that you, your employee and/or your customers understand what’s driving the project. Reinforce your commitment to the project and empathize with its importance. Reassure your employees that you are committed to their success.

4. Be Realistic

This step goes hand in hand with the first one – Be Honest and Know Your Capabilities. Every project has its challenges. Priorities will shift over time. Your timeline has to have some leeway to absorb these changes. An important aspect of managing expectations is to under-promise and over-deliver, resulting in appreciative customers and employees who enjoy a win-win outcome.

5. Continuous Communication

Communication must be consistent and continuous. It’s important that your employees and customers know that you are available when needed. Last minute changes are hard to justify and accept. Surprises only serve to undermine your authority and expertise. Continuous status reports – even simple email reminders on a regular basis – help keep everyone informed. It’s a very good idea to put a good communicator from your team in the role of coordinator.

6. Ask The Right Questions

Managing expectations is critical if you really want to be successful. Asking certain questions helps. Here, we’ve outlined key questions to ask if you are managing expectations of a team. These same questions can be used to manage individuals.

  • What are the processes that the team, or the individual, is responsible for and why are they important to the organization?
  • What are the requirements and the boundaries of the team?
  • Does the team have the expertise, competencies and resources necessary to accomplish its goals?
  • What does each team member bring to the team?
  • What is the reporting relationship of the team to the manager?
  • Does the team have the power to make decisions?
  • Are there certain issues that should be addressed by the manager?
  • What are the expected deliverables?
  • How will the team be measured?

If your organization needs help defining and setting expectations, Bahar Consulting will work with you and your organization to examine opportunities and challenges. Give us a call at 240-242-3349 to discuss your needs.