I am convinced that two simple things can make you more successful at nearly everything you do: effective communication and managing expectations. Okay, there is no denying that these are hot button topics for me but I really do not understand why people struggle with them. The two go hand-in-hand and the skills are actually easy to master.
First, people do not like to be ignored or misinformed. Effective communication can solve this issue. The first step is to communicate with people on a timely basis – whether you are initiating the contact or responding. Your mind tends to conjure all sorts of scenarios (mostly negative) when you do not have timely information. You get frustrated, defensive and often rush to judgment. This is not necessary and can be avoided by timely communication. Second, make sure the communication is understood. Email, text and even conversation can be misinterpreted so make sure the other side understands what you are attempting to convey. With the right tone, it is not condescending to ask someone to confirm the point of your communication.
Managing expectations is the next step. It is part-in-parcel to communication but deserves its own attention. Let’s say for example you get a work email on Thursday but simply do not have the time to effectively respond. The simple and appreciated thing to do is send a quick response (will take less than 30 seconds of your time) to acknowledge the email, say you are swamped but that you will get back to them on Monday with a full response. Of course, the second part of this equation is crucial for truly managing expectations – you have to deliver on your promise.
We recently had some renovations done on our house and (after some experience with other contractors) I made sure the person doing the work managed my expectations. I ask for a deadline for completion and specifically asked not for a time frame that they hoped to fulfill but one that they knew could be done even if that pushed it out a few weeks. No one likes it when their deadlines are not met and although everyone would prefer that work get done sooner; it is better practice to actually deliver on what you promise. Now, if some unforeseen issue arises that will push things back then it is time for more effective communication. This entails keeping the other side immediately informed (not waiting until the deadline has passed) by explaining the setback and setting a new deadline.
We have all been frustrated when people fail to communicate or meet actual or perceived deadlines. What is so perplexing is that these simple acts are completely within someone’s control and take so little effort. What should be standard now appears to be the exception, so taking the time to communicate and manage expectations could very well set you apart from your competition.