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Jade MillNov 16, 2023 9:05:12 AM2 min read

Setting and Managing Expectations

In the fast-paced world of business, one thing remains constant: effective stakeholder management is the linchpin of success. At the heart of this, lies the critical importance of setting and managing expectations. So, why this practice is paramount? What does it entail? and how do you deal with the inevitable challenge of unrealistic expectations? 


Setting expectations is the compass that guides our journey. When we ensure everyone involved is clear on what's expected of them and when it should be achieved, we're essentially putting accountability on the map. This clarity not only keeps everyone aligned but also empowers us to identify and mitigate problems earlier in the process. 

What should you do? 

  1. Communicate and Agree SLAs: Clear SLA’s lay the foundation for understanding what can be expected.
  2. Agendas for Meetings with Action Points: Follow-up with a well-documented agenda that outlines key discussion points and assigns action items (be honest… are you consistent enough with this?).
  3. Effective Onboarding: Proper onboarding helps stakeholders understand your processes and why you work the way you do. This applies to everything, be it a new customer all the way to working with a new internal stakeholder at your company.  


Managing Stakeholder Expectations 

Managing stakeholder expectations is the cornerstone of successful recruitment and lasting professional relationships. Throughout my career, I’ve seen the typical challenges faced in this area due to various factors (including but not limited to the following): 

  • Unrealistic expectations. 
  • Stakeholders under immense pressure. 
  • Limited understanding of the market. 
  • Low-priority hires or conflicting stakeholder interests. 
  • Unclear objectives or ever-evolving needs. 
  • Lack of rapport with the Hiring Manager. 
  • Resistance to change. 


Setting Realistic Expectations 

In my role, me and my team are seen as the experts, therefore it is our job to offer our expertise and guidance to ensure success – this includes setting clear and achievable expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page. Below are some hints and tips to avoid the common mistakes many of us are guilty of making:  

  1. SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals keep expectations realistic.
  2. Under promise and Overdeliver (within reason): Exceeding expectations often leads to satisfied stakeholders.
  3. Clear Communication: Ensure every stakeholder is on the same page.
  4. Agenda for Meetings with SLAs: Clearly define the purpose and expectations for each interaction.
  5. Gantt, Working Backwards, Route from Failure: Utilise effective project management techniques.
  6. Utilise various resources for information: Leverage tools like market reports and industry guides to have more informed and credible conversations. 


Dealing with Unrealistic Expectations 

Unrealistic expectations are often caused by the following (including but not limited to); misinformation, miscommunication, and personal biases. To address them, consider these approaches: 

  • Consultative Conversations: Actively engage stakeholders in meaningful dialogues. 
  • Constructive Feedback: Provide data-backed insights to manage expectations. 
  • Utilise additional resources: Demonstrate the value of reports, credible sites, and any suitable tools to generate data you can use.  
  • Onboarding: Highlight the features and benefits of your service/ways of working to showcase their true value. It all starts with that first conversation. 


Key Takeaways: 

  • Stakeholder expectations are the foundation of successful collaboration. 
  • Effective communication and clear documentation are non-negotiable. 
  • Unrealistic expectations can be addressed through education and constructive conversations. 
  • Leveraging on products and services can add value and bridge the expectation-reality gap.