Managing Expectations Critical in Human Interactions

In my very first focus group with a city manager he told me “A big challenge for me is managing the expectations of my citizens in an age where consumers can now order a book online today and receive it tomorrow. That’s not the case for fixing potholes.” We have a number of features in my company’s software that makes it easier for administrative officials to manage citizen expectations around customer service.

But expectations are terribly important in any life interaction. The word “disappointment” is completely relative to what a person is expecting. You don’t have complete control of someone’s expectations on projects/jobs/communications, but you can certainly do things to manage them. Most people try to lower another person’s expectations so they can “under promise, over deliver.” This is fine, but it makes it harder for you to keep raising the standard for yourself because a key way that happens is by other people pushing you, by saying “I think you can do it one notch better.”

When high flying executives suffer a major crash in morale and self-esteem, it is usually because they contributed to meteoric rise in others’ expectations in their performance by not being as candid about their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. If you lead other people to believe that you are superman, then the smallest of small mistakes will not be in line with others’ expectations, and you will fall. It’s human nature to cheer for the underdog, and see the hero fail. Hence my distaste for larger-than-life CEOs.

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