Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

I recently presented my first in-person workshops since becoming an author. {Time out for celebratory happy dance. Ok, I’m back.} The topic? “Reclaiming Your Work Life Balance When You’re The Go To Person On The Team.”

In these interactive sessions, I spoke to attendees about the many hats we all wear in our personal and professional lives, the “super powers” we all tap into in order to manage it all and how, sometimes, these same super powers that make us successful, are the same strengths that sometime trip us up in our quest to find the right balance between our personal and professional lives.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to ensure we manage our super powers instead of having them manage us. These strategies include learning how to manage the expectations of our bosses, co-workers, family members and others who count on us.

Specifically, here are 5 strategies for managing expectations that I’ve often relied on in my 20 plus years working in a consulting or advisory capacity to a broad range of internal and external clients:

Feeling stuck and underappreciated at work?

1. Set the Tone Up Front
Hold an introductory or initial project kick off meeting. Remember, your job is to guide your client in the discussion so they will understand how you work; which aspects of the work you can or cannot handle in house or with existing resources; when you are (or aren’t) available; how their project will move forward if you’re out of the office; what you need from them in order to successfully complete their project on time; what they can expect during each phase of the project; and what deliverables will be due and by when.

2. Educate and Inform Along the Way
This is perhaps the most time consuming and difficult part of the expectation management process.  As the project progresses, proactively communicate with and educate your client along the way. Sometimes giving them a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes for you to get the job done is just what they need to understand your world a bit better so they can begin to adjust their expectations accordingly.

3. Set Limits
What happens when the client (your boss or colleague) feels free to call at all hours? Or expects you to turn around a complex job in an unrealistic timeframe? As a professional, it’s up to you to manage your time. It is also your obligation to be responsive. Here’s how to balance the two.

4. Don’t be afraid to “fire the client” (even if that’s your boss or a colleague) if necessary What if, despite your best efforts, the client continues to demand more than is realistic? Then it may be time to “fire” the client or walk away from the project. The trick is to know when enough is enough and walk away, after you’ve tried your level best to make the situation work.

5. Don’t Overpromise.
Many times we are so eager to please our boss or our clients that we easily fall into the trap of promising too much. The best way to avoid this is to consider that every hour wasted and every mismanaged expectation hurts your reputation as a professional as well as that of your team—and ultimately devalues your contribution to the company.

The process of learning to manage expectations is important because it sets the rules of engagement in any relationship. By learning to treat your boss or colleagues like clients in a consulting relationship, you can set certain boundaries in your relationships up front, and develop strong working relationships.  And in the process, you can master the art of managing your work instead of having your work manage you!

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