Friday, November 12, 2010

Are Expectations Damaging Your Reputation?

By Hannah Samuel

"How can I be responsible for what someone else expects of me?" you may ask. Well, managing expectations is a two-way process, and if you don't influence those expectations, and negotiate an outcome that works for both of you, you're partly responsible for what they may think or assume.

One of the biggest problems of expectations is they are completely subjective. One person's perception of 'friendly' or 'speedy' might be quite different to someone else and unless we have similar expectations to those we are dealing with we run the risk of being unfairly judged and have our reputation put at risk. The good news is that managing expectations is relatively straight-forward and can help us enhance our reputation and build trust in the process.

Make checking expectations a priority. Avoid making assumptions based other people or past experiences. Instead check what their expectations may be as this will give you facts to work from, help you negotiate more effectively and show you genuinely care about achieving a positive outcome.

Clarify current expectations. Ask open questions (who, what, when, where, why and how) to gain information about their current expectations. The answers will help you prioritise what may be most important to both you and them, and give you an opportunity to let them know about possible constraints you may face that they may be unaware of.

Be realistic. Over-promising and under-delivering is one of the biggest reputation-damagers there is. If you know you're not going to be able to meet their expectations let them know and if possible recommend someone who can. You'll maintain your reputation and earn plenty of 'goodwill' points in the process.

Reach agreement. Whether written or verbal, make sure you reach agreement about expectations on both sides before parting company. If mini-agreements are needed to help achieve a final outcome make sure you can deliver on each of these in their own right.

Taking an active role in managing expectations is essential to long-term personal, business and reputation success. The first promises we need to keep are to ourselves, then to those we give our word to. Now that's a great expectation worth having.