EXPECTATIONS WILL SET YOU FREEWait a minute, you say. Isn’t that a paradox? Wouldn’t setting expectations tie you down to a series of must dos and thus actually bind you to your commitments? Certainly.

But, if you desire to achieve something or want to reach a goal, you have to articulate what you must do to better you chances of achieving what you want. Expectation setting will free you from time wasting random actions and a hit or miss trail to your goal. The structured approach will also free you from FUD; Fear, Doubt and Uncertainty.  Constant Fear of not reaching your goal because you do not have a plan of actions.  Doubt, because you have not broken down the ‘struggle’ into actionable steps. By the way, once you have a clear plan of actions, the ‘struggle’ will become the fuel of growing passion.  The Uncertainty part will be mitigated if you keeping hitting the small steps right.

Loud, but clear?

Having said all that, I want to point out that the goal must be attainable. Not some fancy ego expression like wanting to outscore Luis Suarez in the Barclays Premier League when you are not even in a team. That is insanity. Goal Setting is another art I have written a post about.

The other day, Joe was complaining. “ I send my son to the best private school with proven teachers to help him pass the exams. I have a bunch of tuition teachers to help him but he is not doing his part and not moving anywhere.” “ Hello Joe, you send your son to a private school just to pass the exams? We’ ll talk about that some other time. About ‘he’s not doing his part,’ does he know what he he’s supposed to do? Did you set the expectations?” I asked. “Well, I expect him to study on his own too…” Joe offered.

“Yep but what is studying on his own? Is that clear enough an expectation?” I asked. Moving on to John. John has a gripe. “I am frustrated. We have a clear scope, but my contractor is not even meeting my requirements….” “Okay, John. The scope spells out the overall scheme of things on what the services will cover but have you set actionable expectations with results you can measure regularly? Do they have a clear alignment with you on what are your expectations at a given period of time?” I asked.

EXPECTATIONS WILL SET YOU FREEMost of the time, we confuse instruction with expectation. Like Joe who told his son to study on his own too. What ‘study on his own’ to the son and Joe may be different things. John has written an overarching scope of work covering what the contractor must do but how well must the contractor do may not be properly aligned. I have experienced facilities with what they called the “outcome based” contract.

Is there an easy route to success?

The client keeps thinking that an outcome based contract is a panacea. Just describe the outcome and not set any progressive expectations and you will be delivered the desired outcomes at any time you inspect. In fact, you are not to care how they (the contractor employees) do it, what do they do it with and how many times they did it. If you do, then you are interfering and thus, you become liable for the results. Hogwash, or bullshit, if you like.

I have had about 10 years with such contract management and most of the time spent  were at managing the building animosity between the contractor employees and the contract supervisors because they could not agree on the service outcome level. Lots of money were spent in ‘out of scope’ service engagements to get the ‘desired outcome’ when there was a critical audit.  The ‘outcome based contract’ will not absolve the need for setting of progressive expectations.


Essentially, expectations define the behaviors or actionable steps that you must take to move you in the direction of your goal or desire. It is a framework defining what and how you must act, and I always like the actions to be observable or measurable, so that you are moving towards your targeted achievement. With all the expectation framework I set, I would add in the column where I describe the expected results for each action step of task.

There are three critical elements that will enhance the success to your efforts:

1)      Clarity- the expectations must be worded in a clear and specific manner. It is best to check for understanding with the receiver when you are delivering the expectations. Make changes to the verbiage if needed to ensure that both parties are aligned.

2)      Actionable-the expectations set must be realistic and can be executed by the expectee. It is no point to set expectations that cannot be delivered, thus setting up the expectee to fail. The better process would be to have a pre-setting discussion. In the case of Joe’s son, it would be counter-productive to pressure him to submission with what expectaitons that may not be achievable. With the kids, one has to be patient to set progressive expectations; starting from easing the kid into the system with simple expectations, before venturing into the tough results, based on the desired targeted achievement. With the contracted services, the expectations should be set within the scope of the agreement.

3)      Regular reviews – part of the expectation framework is to set a review period where the expectations are measured, rated and revised. If the expectations need to be reset because of new developments or desired outcomes, then there should be an agreement to do so.  In the review discussions, additional expectations might also be set to ensure that the direction towards the goal or targeted achievement is secured.EXPECTATIONS WILL SET YOU FREE

Do you think setting expectations is necessary towards achieving your goals?  How do you set your expectations?