People Smartz

A Lesson In Expectation Management

Tony Perkins - Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Today I was almost involved in an accident in my car. I was driving along the road, the last of three cars travelling along a suburban street. Up ahead was a side street with one car waiting to turn out and another waiting to turn into it. Unexpectantly, the first of the two cars ahead of me suddenly stopped to let these two cars exit and enter the side street. Taken by surprise, both I and the driver of the second car braked hard. Unfortunately, the second car was unable to stop in time and drove straight into the rear of the first car, which then crashed into both the cars turning. Luckily, I was travelling far enough behind to avoid being physically involved and my car was undamaged - something I can not say for the other 4 cars involved.

More importantly, no one was injured in the accident.

Now what has this got to do with a blog about business you might ask?

Well, it teaches us a lesson in why it is important to manage expectations in your business - when you don't, the unexpected happens!

We have road laws that control how traffic behaves, signs that indicate who is required to give way or stop, speed limits and many other things that are provided to ensure we are safe and consistent on the road.  Today's accident occurred (in my opinion), because someone decided that they would do the "unexpected".

Simply, he stopped to allow traffic that legally did not have the right of way to turn.  As he stated after, he thought he was "doing the right thing" and that "they could be waiting for ages". 

The problem was that this was not a behaviour those travelling behind were expecting - we were expecting him to follow the rules.  He hadn't even thought that others would be expecting him to do something different!

Now we have said before in this blog that the number one thing we see when asked to assist businesses with issues that develop with people is that there is an inconsistent approach to expectation management. 

When expectations aren't clear or not understood, then problems occur.  In the case of the car accident, the expectations were clear, but the understanding was not - the driver did not understand the need to stick to rules, he did not understand the effect that his actions may have (I am sure he does now!)

So there is a lesson to be learnt from today's event - how you deliver and ensure understanding of your and your businesses expectations is important in ensuring your business remains on track - without any "accidents".

This is were tools such as position descriptions, employment agreements, codes of conduct, processes and procedures become very important.  They lay out the basic "expectations" of the business in regards to behaviours, customer and peer interaction, business development etc.  If these are clear and easily understood, you are a long way along the track to ensuring a smooth running business.

In line with this is ensuring that you have strong systems to communicate formally and informally with your team.  This includes performance management systems and the way you pass on important information.  Regardless of the size of the business, these systems in themselves can be designed to improve both individual and business performance.

Equally important is the demonstrated behaviour of owners and managers of your business. By ensuring your own actions are line with these expectations, you are providing an example to your team.

If you would like to improve the performance of your team, first look to how you manage your expectations - For many years, we at People Smartz, have been assisting in ensuring that businesses run smoothly through the strong development of these expectation management tools and behaviours. Call us today to assist you!

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