Why Unclear Expectations Can Be Dangerous
My friend, the very successful entrepreneur, business coach and strategist, Sarah Robinson recently tweeted, “Unclear expectations are at the root of most upset and disappointment.”
This excellent thought can be viewed in either of two ways (and I did not ask her how she meant it):
1. Not being clear on your own goals and what you expect to accomplish.
2. Two or more people working together on a project either as partners or as supplier and client and not being clear on what each expects from the other.
Let’s look at the second meaning. This is where understanding of belief systems comes into play, as well as communication in terms of an ability to effectively clarify.
“What I believe you heard is not what you think I said.”
We are all products of different upbringing, environment, friends, schools, teachers, news media, television shows, movies, and other experiences. And, how we consciously — but mainly unconsciously — accepted the various information fed to us comprises our individual beliefs. One huge challenge is that we assume everyone else basically thinks, feels and believes the way we do. (Ex: “But, everyone feels that way!”)
Even specific words often mean different things to different people.
So, when approaching any project in which part of that success depends on the actions of another (or others) it is vital to be sure expectations are very clearly defined.
And, that those expectations are agreed upon by all parties and put in writing.
Interesting: While we often pine for the days when “that person was so honest, a contract wasn’t needed; his or her word/handshake was good enough” that is actually an extremely dangerous way to do business.
Not because of dishonesty. No, because of different belief systems, which lead not only to different interpretations but different memories of what was said and expected.
In other words, a written contract or agreement not only holds everyone accountable; it ensures all expectations are defined and clarified, and agreed upon by all concerned.
Yes, clarification and agreement are both so very important! So, before you hire someone, are hired by someone, or enter into any type of partnership, be sure that you dramatically decrease the odds of upset and disappointment.
Discuss and communicate needs and expectations until you’re certain everyone understands everyone else. And, then put them in writing so they are crystallized.
Again, this has nothing to do with lack of trust in anyone’s character — it’s simply an acknowledgment of different belief systems and unclear expectations that can very innocently lead…to dangerous results.