Crossed-expectation is a common source of problems when it comes to results. Setting and correcting expectations with yourself and others is a key to effective results and for avoiding disappointment. If you keep failing to meet your own expectations, you can hurt your self-image, which in turn will impact your confidence. If you consistently miss expectations you set with other people, they’ll lose confidence in you, or they’ll be disappointed in your results.
Consider the following guidelines for improving your ability to set and manage expectations effectively:
- Know your capacity.
- Set and reset expectations.
- Set expectations.
- Under-promise, Over-deliver.
Know Your Capacity
This is about being honest with yourself. This is about setting honest expectations for what you can or can’t achieve within a given time frame. If you continuously over-estimate yourself, then use this as input when you make your estimates and adjust for it. Knowing your capacity will help you make more accurate estimates of your time. It will also help you push back more effectively. If you know how much you can handle, then you can push back when you’re exceeding your capacity. Never be afraid to push back. It’s better to tell your manager (or yourself) up front that you’re over-extended, than fail to deliver and surprise them (or yourself) with failure.
Set and Reset Expectations
Make expectations explicit. Your goal should be to reduce the gap between expectations and results, by setting and resetting expectations effectively. This isn’t about making strict contracts. Instead, it’s about avoiding going dark, and making sure that you correct expectations as you learn more. This holds true whether it’s about setting expectations with others or with yourself.
One of the keys to setting expectations is under-promising and over-delivering. This is a proven practice over continuously falling short on doing what’s expected. Make it a habit to set a realistic bar, but clear the bar with stellar results when you can. This will do wonders for your reputation and for your confidence. The more you execute successfully, the more you’ll believe in your execution ability, and you can gradually take on more complexity and scope.