3 Keys for Effectively Managing Expectations

Journeys in Construction

3 Keys for Effectively Managing Expectations

Harold presenting project outline on whiteboard.

These are simple tips which may seem obvious, but I’m often surprised by professionals who fail to manage expectations. In my estimation, this is the root cause of many costly problems in business.

These tips are minimum standards for managers, and are also helpful to people who may not hold the title of manager but aspire to be effective leaders. Using these tips might even help you to lead your manager.


Set expectations in advance.

Engage in honest, direct, and respectful discussion.

Use various forms of communication, tailoring your approach for best effect, as different individuals respond differently.

Don’t simply forward or cc emails, unless you have an understanding with the recipients.

Do not assume that other people understand your expectations and you understand theirs. 

Clarify, ask questions, and provide feedback, as well as encouraging others to do so.

Share detailed plans and make sure to confirm agreements.

Anticipate problems.

Expect that there will be misunderstandings and mistakes. 

Prevention is the best cure.

Share notes of lessons learned from past experiences.

Own your mistakes and do not blame other people for them.

Despite the best planning, there may be necessary changes during the course of work.

Keep people informed of changes.

Follow up. 

Monitor and report progress.

Check in frequently.

Trust, but verify.

Managing expectations is an iterative process requiring ongoing follow up.

Repeat the process often, and adjust as appropriate to different situations.


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