Expectations raise Emotions, don’t they!

I have this gut feeling writing about Expectations is a must do this week. It lingers for a while and I wasn’t yet quite sure what  and how to get it into words. Let’s try.

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”

Let me use this quote from Ralph Marston to illustrate an important point. The expectation to meet a certain criteria can come either from your boss, your colleagues, or yourself. By doing this you are faced with a test. The test has actually two facets, firstly will you meet the criteria and live up to the expectations. It is a question of knowledge, skill, and aptitude. Have you learned what is necessary and are you able to apply it in the given situation. This is a simple and straight forward task and you can answer it for yourself.

Now, the second facet isn’t that straight forward for most people. And it is covered in the quote above. What if your training hasn’t progressed that far yet, or the situation is so different you can’t apply your knowledge straight up, or the time constraints or any other element that throws you off? Your attitude, your reaction how you tackle this, will decide if you meet the expectations. And the question you and I have to ask every time is, “Do I want to?”

“I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.”

You may think, that “Do I want to?” is a strange question. The philosopher Fritz Perls has looked at that saying, “no it’s not.” He raised a very important aspect. If I don’t feel comfortable with the expectation or even stronger I don’t agree with it, then don’t do it. Working in a service organisation where you strive to meet customer expectations, that (saying no) will usually not work. Or you realise quickly, this job ain’t for me! Let’s look a this example:

Most service organisations have some rule and regulations. For example in Information Technology we like 2 weeks notice when a new employee starts to have the IT equipment ready for the person on the day. Lately we had several instances where a day or 2 days notice were thrust upon the service desk and the expectations were “please, make it happen!”.

Now, I know for sure there is a buffer for such emergencies. These things do happen – on occasions. Although, several such requests over stretched the ability to deliver to expectations. And because it worked before for the customer the understanding of the stated 2-week rule was cast aside. The helpdesk person’s “sorry, I can’t help you in that time frame.” did not meet the customer’s expectation and it got escalated.

You can easily see that emotions were running high. A solution was found. Now, interestingly, my expectations was to manage customer’s expectations and renew the message of early warning. But, the message for IT operations was to shorten the time frame. A new expectation was set and again emotions were triggered. The play with expectations is often like balancing. Pushing to hard or not putting it in the right context will not trigger the attitude, “Let’s do this!” but the attitude “What the heck …”.

“I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than fatally disappointed.”

I found a number of quotes that go like the above. They all have a different approach to getting things done. The premise is, everyone wants to do a good job. Hence I do not need detailed rules and processes (the emphasis is on detailed!). People will naturally do what is necessary and improve as they go. One person said to me a long time ago. “Frank, when you employ people look for the lazy ones. They will always find a way to make a process work with less effort.”

The quote could have a more fatalistic premise: “Don’t expect anything from these buggers, they will not do what you want and you will certainly disappointed by the outcome.” Yes, there are people like that. I prefer believing in people!

“Expect everything so that nothing comes unexpected.”

The final quote I want to use to explore the many facets of expectations comes from Norton Juster. Expectations can also made to be prepared. Expectations are in that respect a fantastic planning tool. It’s a calculation what can happen and you can add how likely this would be. You can drive your own expectations with this and still be surprised if an unlikely outcome becomes reality.

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