Saturday, 6 March 2010

Managing expectations

We have a few pithy catchphrases at work, largely rolled out as a means of teasing one another during those there-but-for-the-grace-of-god moments. "It's nice that you don't feel the need to file anything," for the times when you open a file to find that it contains one sheet of paper (usually the fee invoice!) "The devil's in the detail," when you discover that someone has entirely missed a fairly fundamental point. "He's carrying out essential market research," usually means that he's in the pub.

"Manage your client's expectations," refers to those times when our clients already have a fixed, if flawed, view of what they want us to achieve for them, and, no matter what we do, we'll never achieve their goals. We end up spending more time tempering what our clients are wanting us to do, than actually doing it, and still come away from the job knowing that the perception is that we've done a bad job. It happens a lot, especially at the moment, when most property owners seem to think that, by some miracle, their building is the single one defying the effects of the global recession.

But I've been thinking a bit about managing my own expectations.

I have a sort of expectation that everything will stay the same. Always. At all levels. When things change by my own hand, then, once I've decided it's time, I'm pretty good at embracing those changes. My new house (ok ... not so new anymore!) is wonderful, and I love coming home to it, but it took me a while (about 32 years ...) to talk myself into thinking that it was time to buy it. My new job is, without question, the best move I could possibly have made - once I'd decided to leave the old one, I knew pretty quickly that life could only be better elsewhere. The new car ... well, I'm working on that. I know I need to do it, but I'm nooooot quite ready yet!

I get vexed when things change beyond my control. I hate it when you go to buy, say, a mascara that you've been buying for years and love, and when you get there it says "new formula" on the case. AAGGHH! What was wrong with the old formula?! I hate it when friends move away, even if I know it's what's best for them. I get all discombobulated when restaurants I like are suddenly "under new management" and the thing I always hankered after on their starter menu is no longer available.

There's the question of managing hope too. I'm a bit of a one for pinning hopes on something, then feeling let down when it doesn't come off. Just last week I had a new recipe to try which looked fabulous - all of my favourite things in one pan - and when I made it, it was best described as bland. Sob sob sob! And I think I'm going to have to stop buying lottery tickets - every week, when I go to check the results, I know, without question, that I am a millionaire. Then I read the numbers, and check them against my own. Then I double check (surely there's been some kind of mistake?!) and then I deal with the abject disappointment of having to wait a whole week longer before my numbers come up. Really. It's not good for my bloody pressure.

I've been learning lessons about managing my expectations of people too. I think I put people into boxes. I think that they are one thing, and then they do something which makes me realise I'd mis-judged them. It works both ways, of course. A bunch of flowers from someone to cheer you up, when you hadn't realised that they were close enough to notice you were uncheered. A well timed phone call from someone to wish you luck for something you didn't realise anyone knew mattered. It's lovely to realise that someone is more than you thought they were.

I just wish that I wasn't disappointed when people turn out not to be what I'd hoped they were. And I wish I didn't take it so personally when they behave in a way which is, to be fair, entirely in character, but against the way I'd have them behave. I wish I didn't assume they they are in Box A, when really they were in Box B all along. Or worse, that I didn't make such strident efforts to push then into Box A that I inadvertently forced them into Box B.

I wish that I could learn to manage my own expectations more adequately.

1 comment:

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