Setting Expectations in Your Professional & Personal Life

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According to an article from Harvard Business Review, Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making, a common behavioral trap to fall into is the failure to set proper expectations. While the article is geared toward working professionals in various fields, setting expectations is imperative in your personal life as well.

expectationsLack of communication can cause the smallest conflict to erupt into World War III. While there is an art to every craft, there are different types of genius. Muhammad Ali couldn’t develop the theory of relativity because he wasn’t a physicist. Albert Einstein, meanwhile, wasn’t trained to win 56 out of 61 boxing bouts, 37 of those victories by way of knock out.

No matter how brilliant Ali was in the ring or Einstein was at science, neither completed a musical composition at the age of 5 like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did.

With all the varying degrees of “genius,” there also exists the concept of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is much more than simply having “common sense.” It’s the ability to be in tuned with oneself, in control of one’s emotions, and at the same time be aware of others emotions, situations or circumstances.

Essentially it’s empathy powered by a V6 engine of self and sense awareness. It’s fluid communication without strife because, no matter how others react, you’re in control of your own emotions. Therefore, you’re not reactive or affected by another’s behavior, no matter how poor, negative or chaotic that behavior is. And if the situation is messy, emotional intelligence allows for one to understand that beyond how bad we might feel at the time there lies a strategy out of the mess.

Diagram of emotional intelligenceWhen you lack emotional intelligence, you are more prone to react and to struggle with healthy communication in professional or personal life. You wind up doing the worst thing you can potentially do in any relationship: assume. When you assume that someone ought to know what to do, you expect him or her to read your mind. While there are some that claim to have telepathic capabilities, most of us aren’t an X-Men character capable of reading other people’s minds or predicting the future. People who thrust assumptions onto others often respond to the disappointment of not getting the results they seek by blaming others and accusing them of lacking “common sense.” This happens in professional as well as personal relationships.

What might be common sense to one person might not be to another. It’s all relative. Yes, common sense is an essential aspect of being a well-adjusted adult, and we should have some level of common sense that help us function rather effectively in our careers and personal life. It’s easy to point out people in society who seem to be lacking this trait. But are they really? Is our disappointment in them misguided? Should we instead be pointing the finger at ourselves? This is a reminder to company managers that in order to evolve into a leader you need to set very clear expectations for your company and employees. Then you can more accurately and fairly track their progress and hold them accountable for their performance.

teamimageSetting expectations doesn’t mean you need to turn into a nagging parent. Sometimes, people don’t want to ruffle feathers, churn the water. They dislike confrontation to the point of miscommunication or even completely withholding expectations, only to later blow up at an employee for not doing a good job. But in reality, the employee was left to guess at the objective and therefore was unable to hit the target.

In a meeting with clients or staff, for example, it’s imperative to clearly draw the line as to what your company can deliver and what you cannot deliver. You clearly state what your price points are and the type of services included for each. Therefore, if the client demands more than the expectation is set that it will cost more. It’s that simple. Similarly, if a business is seeking a new vision for 2015 through restructuring, then everyone, from management down, needs to be on the same page. Employees cannot deliver satisfactory work and performance without clear guidance from leaders that set vague expectations. It’s like writing down instructions. If you cannot give really good instructions, then you’re either not a good communicator, you don’t know what you truly want or you don’t even know how the desired result can be accomplished. This means its time to take up relationship building classes, invest in enhancing you communication skills or going back to the drawing board with your executives to re-examine your goals and develop a better action plan.

Personally, it’s vital to set expectations especially when it comes to loved ones who like to push personal boundaries, take more than they should or use your weaknesses to advance their agenda. A family member visited recently and it soon turned into a fiasco. I realized it was partly my fault because I knew the tendencies this individual has, and upfront I vaguely communicated my expectations in inviting (and paying for) her to visit. Because I did not communicate my expectations, she arrived with her own.

Most people need and actually want firm boundaries and bold expectations set for them. This is just as true for your employees as it is for your loved ones. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you don’t get what you want.

The Bottom Line:

Do not be afraid of confrontation. If you choose to strengthen your leadership muscles then you must set clear expectations in all professional and personal matters. This doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. Effective communication takes skill to disarm arrogance, condescension, hot tempers, and egos. Taking control of your life means reducing chaos and the potential for small misunderstandings, which can erupt into huge dramatic arguments. Do yourself a favor and learn how to calmly yet clearly set expectations that will be understood by everyone. Once you do this, you’ll be surprised at how drama-free your personal and work environment becomes and how stress seems can melt away from all areas of your life.

Brian Tracy


2 thoughts on “Setting Expectations in Your Professional & Personal Life

    prior said:
    October 4, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    need to come back and finish reading – but very cool… 🙂


      lilpickmeup said:
      October 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Thank you Prior. When I wrote this, it was a reminder to myself that I need to set expectations. If we don’t do this in most, if not, all areas of our lives. Then we wind up having people walk all over us or we are in situations at work that are uncomfortable, confusing, and goals are not properly spelled out. It’s just as important to set expectations for family and friends. I think without personal boundaries, you find yourself in a bad situation where there are misunderstandings and arguments. Hope you get to read it all and thanks again. 🙂


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