Monthly Archives: March 2011

Expectations – Set them. Exceed them.

In the past month or so, I’ve fielded an unusual spike in disappointing emails – emails about delayed projects, colleagues who are unable to follow through with commitments, and others from people who just generally set an expectation, then fall flat. I am not sure if it’s the time of year, bad karma, or just a string of bad luck, but I must say that I find it tiring and quite confusing.

When I set an expectation, I do everything I can to meet and exceed that expectation. It’s understandable that things come up, but when things come up, most likely the situation can be managed by allocating a little extra time or shifting priorities. Either way, I don’t take expectations lightly and I do what I can to go above and beyond.

Basically, if I set an expectation that I will have a project completed by Friday, I will have it by Friday (if not by Thursday). If I deliver it on Friday, I’ve met the expecation. If I deliver it on Thursday, I’ve exceeded the expectation…and probably shocked the hell out of the recipient. Why? Because (and maybe this is just me, but) we are too often disappointed that we’ve come to expect people to not live up our/their expectations.

Here’s a lesson I learned from a previous employer: Set expectations that you can exceed and you will never get yourself in a bind. Basically, when we had projects, she would tell us to set our own deadline based on our workload and what seemed reasonable. Then she held us 100 percent accountable for that deadline since we set the expectation. Makes a lot of sense.

So the moral of today’s babble? Don’t set expectations you can’t exceed…or at least meet. When you fail to meet expectations, it effects everyone involved (remember that) and they don’t deserve to be disappointed.

Disclaimer: There are always exceptions to the rule so unforeseen or extenuating circumstances are always understood.

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Common Courtesy: A Trend That Should Never Die

Courtesy Definition

The past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about common courtesy and the actions of others. In today’s world of technology and the ability to both stalk and dodge people, I think society is loosing site on the rules of common courtesy. It is too easy to forget to show gratitude and too easy to avoid an uncomfortable situation by hiding behind a computer or letting it go to voicemail. Seriously, let’s just go back to the basic principles of please and thank-you, and embracing human interaction.

Here are some examples I’d like to share:

  • When someone calls, answer it…or call them back if you miss it. It isn’t nice to ignore calls or just listen to a voicemail and forget it happened. The same goes for emails. If someone tries to sell you something and you aren’t interested, just tell them you aren’t interested (unless it’s spam and they ask for your personal details for the Royal Bank of Scotland). If it’s a friend and you are in a dispute, call them back and deal with it. It’s called life and it happens.
  • If someone goes out of their way for you, thank them. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like my efforts to go above and beyond weren’t acknowledged. I don’t need a skywriter to provide a thank-you note, just a simple thank-you and recognition that I did something beyond what is expected. Trust me, that “thank-you” will go a long way the next time the opportunity to go beyond comes along. Also, don’t take advantage of kindness, instead return the favor.
  • If you say you are going to do it, do it. If you weren’t going to do it, then why did you say you were int he first place? In general, if you declare you are going to do something, please do it. If you run into a barrier or experience complications, make that known. Most people are forgiving when they understand the circumstances, but they can’t be understanding if they are uniformed.

Basically, these three actions boil down to using effective communications. It’s about speaking with people, listening to people, and responding when it makes sense. It is also the difference between saying you are going to do something and actually do it. These common courtesy principles are getting lost in the technology shuffle and it is just unacceptable!

Asking (the right) Questions.

In the past few days I learned the value of asking questions. More importantly, I learned that we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They are the questions that prevent us from wasting our time – either by lack of knowledge, a misunderstanding, or something that should have been uncovered straight away.

For example, if we don’t ask the right questions when creating a website, we get too far into it to turn back. If we turn back to make corrections or changes, we end up wasting time by back tracking, and wasting money on edits that could have been avoided. If we start a project, but forget to ask for the budget, it is difficult to back track and ask, then find out it is much less than we thought after putting ideas in place.

Oh and when we assume – in life and in love – it’s because we never asked any questions and that is a recipe for disaster.

In general, I think life boils down to effective communication in all forms. We need to learn to communicate effectively via email, in-person, through our writing, and through our motions. It takes some time to learn others’ styles and to conform to their communication preferences, but the more aware we are of those styles, the better communicators we will become…

…and the more time we will have and the happier we will be! 🙂