Not getting what you expect? This could be why

I handed Maya the crucial product comparison project with visions of a meticulous, organized Excel spreadsheet complete with a concise summary of findings.


Unfortunately, what I received was not even close to what I envisioned.


A week later, there we were, huddled around a table, surrounded by endless pages of raw data, most of which we couldn’t make heads or tails of. Maya tried to explain some initial observations, but there was no comprehensive report, and no succinct summary.


Our frustration and disappointment were palpable. Maya, because she genuinely believed she had delivered precisely what I wanted. And me, because an entire week had slipped through our fingers with almost nothing to show for it. The looming project deadline was dark cloud on our calendar.


So what went wrong?


It was a disaster, and the blame rested squarely on my shoulders. I had failed to communicate my expectations clearly, and I hadn’t bothered to ask Maya about hers. I made careless assumptions that led us down this path.


I assumed Maya’s past successes were an automatic guarantee of success this time-even though she had never done a project list this. I thought she instinctively knew what data to collect and how to present it. When she didn’t come to me with questions or concerns, I naively believed she was on the right track. Those assumptions, those shortcuts, cost us big time. They cost us precious time, wasted effort, and pushed the entire project perilously close to the brink of failure.


But there is a way out of this chaos. It’s called mutual expectations.


These conversations are lifelines that answer the critical questions of when, what, how, and why tasks should be done. They form the bedrock of performance and the linchpin of accountability.


Imagine a world where both you and your team members share a common understanding. This world is brimming with confidence because there’s a clear, agreed-upon roadmap. Desired outcomes are defined; measurements of success are crystal clear. No one is in the dark.


In our case, we hadn’t had those discussions. We hadn’t talked about the results we were aiming for or what the finished product should even look like. Maya was left stumbling in the dark, unaware of what specific information to gather, where to find it, how to assess its relevance, or even how to present it. The ‘why’ was absent too, which left us all adrift.


But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a straight forward process to ensure clear, mutual expectations. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Clearly explain the project and emphasize its importance.
  2. Define the desired outcomes and success metrics.
  3. Lay out the steps, share necessary resources, and be explicit about the project’s boundaries.
  4. Ask questions, offer support, and clarify expectations. Can they handle it? Do they have the bandwidth? What questions do they have? What do they expect from you during this project?
  5. Most importantly, ensure that everyone is on the same page and document those expectations for reference.


Don’t make the costly mistake of assigning a project and saying, “Let me know if you have questions.” Instead, regularly check in with your team members. Address any questions, tackle minor challenges before they become colossal obstacles.


These expectation conversations aren’t limited to specific projects. They are your lifeline during team meetings, one-on-ones, role changes, shifting priorities, system updates, process alterations, or policy revisions.


I guarantee you, when you establish mutual expectations, you will see results. Work becomes seamless, efficient, and your team? They’re infused with newfound confidence and a sense of ownership that propels them to unprecedented heights. The solution is right there – it’s mutual expectations, and it’s your ticket to success.