Managing Expectations
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Managing Expectations to Bolster Potential

Maybe it’s the heat getting to me, but as I sweat through what is shaping up to be one of the hottest summers on record here in Texas, I find myself musing on what it might be like to sit in the Texas ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) war room.  If you didn’t learn of ERCOT when it made the national headlines in 2021 during a major ice storm and devastating power outage, then you may have this summer when our independent power grid danced, once again, on the verge of rolling blackouts designed to prevent a full grid failure. I’ve decided this current ERCOT crisis is the perfect example of the vital role expectation management plays in the productivity puzzle.

How Expectation Management Factors into Productivity

I have no ties to ERCOT, beyond being one of the 26M+ people who rely on this independent electrical grid to power many important things in my life. Think air conditioning, lights, computer, washing machine, microwave, etc. So, literally, ERCOT plays a direct role in my productivity. But I’m using my vision of a (possibly theoretical) ERCOT war room to make my bigger point: expectation management plays a pivotal role in the success of any project or enterprise.

We are all subject to the expectations of others. Even an independent contributor is a team player to a larger group or effort. As such, successful expectation management hinges on effective communication, which includes informing our stakeholders of our potential, our progress, and the stakeholder’s role(s) in ensuring the success of the endeavor.

Communication is Key

Crisis or not, clear, concise communication with our stakeholders is foundational to expectation management. For example, putting down in writing the terms of a client engagement is prudent expectation management. Updating a customer on progress is too. Outlining to a coworker that you need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to complete your part of a project is expectation management. As is sending an email to your boss detailing your need for incremental resources.

If in doubt, I recommend you err on the side of offering more information than less. This includes communicating potential delays, possible improvements, etc. in a deliverable. Though you’ll have to judge what warrants a heads up, if a major problem seems somewhat likely, it would be best to provide measured guidance to keep from blindsiding your stakeholders. Going back to my envisioned war room, ERCOT warned us of a possible rolling blackout scenario this summer. Thankfully, it didn’t come to fruition, but we all got a heads up so we could prepare.

On the flip-side, remember that even small advancements can bolster trust, embolden confidence, and stoke enthusiasm, each of which factors directly into productivity. Here in Texas, we’ve been getting regular updates on steps being taken to enhance grid capacity in order to avoid a repeat of the 2021 winter storm scenario.

Why Relaying Your Stakeholder’s Role is Important to Your Success

Clear roles avoid confusion for working groups and they play an equally valuable role in expectation management. Stakeholders need to know what role(s) they play in ensuring project/program success. As stakeholders with ERCOT, when the grid has approached a crisis, we’ve been asked to conserve energy.

Here are some examples that might apply to you:

  • you outline for your client (stakeholder) what you need from them to complete a deliverable, i.e. paperwork, payment, brand guidelines, key player contact information, proof approval, etc.
  • you formally request functional support from another organizational group (stakeholders) in order to complete your project
  • you ask your children (stakeholders) for 2 hours of quiet time to work before you all head out to the water park

Smart Tools That Support Expectation Management

Beyond clear, concise, and consistent written and verbal communication, you might find technology assists you in managing expectations. For example, space in virtual platforms like Google Docs enables you to share drafts and copywriting quickly and effectively. Portals like Microsoft Teams and Evernote support collaborative project work. Applications like Excel and PowerPoint allow you to quickly and effortlessly produce clear, informative project status graphs and charts.

Appreciate Your Role is Setting the Expectations

Lastly, I want to point out the power we hold in setting these expectations, to begin with. This power directly impacts our management load for these expectations down the road. Be realistic with what you can accomplish. If you over-promise to gain an opportunity, it’s more likely than not to cost you an opportunity in the future. We’ve talked about managing the expectations of others today, but next blog post, I plan to cover an important topical forefather: managing the expectations we set for ourselves. So stay tuned.

Managing Expectations Fosters Greater Productivity

Hopefully, we’re in the clear for the balance of the summer down here in Texas. Our 10-day forecast has fewer triple-digit days. And, checking the real-time load capacity interface ERCOT now maintains for us, I see no looming crisis. What’s more, I’ve found comfort in the regular updates ERCOT is sharing on how they are fortifying the grid to withstand future extreme weather. But moving beyond the weather and ERCOT, I will close by asking: Where might you bolster your own productivity through greater expectation management? Can you benefit from enhanced communication? Are your stakeholders fully informed and onboard with your project? Is there technology available to support your efforts? Invest some time in expectation management today and reap the rewards of greater productivity.

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Expert, and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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