#45: Set realistic expectations

Think about a little boy waiting for christmas. He wrote a wishlist to Santa Claus with only one dream on it –  a radio controlled race car. Finally christmas is here. Instead of a radio controlled toy, there’s only a set of new underwear and a pink sweater under the christmas tree.

Think about a young girl dreaming about a candlelight dinner with her boyfriend on Valentine’s day. She’s dressing up. Gets a new haircut. A seductive makeup. Instead of a romantic dinner, they end up at the closest McDonald’s together with his mates. No candles, but 6 Chicken McNuggets instead.

Think about an executive manager who’s company is struggling. Competition is getting harder. Costs are apparently going up. Results are turning down. A huge gap between business and IT has been identified as the root cause for the situation. The executive is hiring some consultants to streamline IT operations and IT organization. After 6 months of work, the consultants present their results. Instead of a concrete plan with detailed recommendations, clearly defined milestones and actions, they deliver a bunch of (at least nice) powerpoint slides full of “ideal-world”-examples and typical copy & paste material ripped from other cases.

What have all these cases in common? They all end in a huge disappointment. They all leave a bad taste in the mouth. Bad feelings. Maybe tears. Most probably some crying and screaming.

Letting your mates, partners, co-workers or clients building up their own understanding of the expected results or deliverables is dangerous. There’s a great chance that you’ll never be able to meeting their expectations. Anticlimax. Therefore rule #45 is that important and that hard in the same time: Set realistic expectations.

First, try to understand your counterpart’s expectations. Work together to get a common understanding. Next, do – together – a reality check whether you’ll be able to fulfill or whether it might result in an anticlimax. Then, set realistic targets / goals and agree on them. And finally – do everything you can to meet her / his expectations.

“If You Eat Caviar Every Day, It’s Difficult to Return to Sausages.” – Arsene Wenger, Head Coach Arsenal.

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