Managing Expectations While Reaching for the Sky

Sometimes, in business as well as life, reality just doesn’t live up to our expectations, even we know full well we are expecting too much. When reality happens, we can’t help but feel disappointed. Here’s a real-life example. And contingent workforce professionals, there is a lesson in it for you. Just read on.

My sister is one of the most logical and brilliant people I know. She became an Apache pilot in the United States Army after graduating early from college. After she left the army, she went to UC Berkeley Law, and was the editor of the Law Review; she passed the California Bar on her first try. She’s no slouch.

But my well-grounded sister surprised me recently when she shared the following story: When on a flight recently, she reached her hand out the window just to feel the clouds. She remarked that even though she knew clouds were made of water and particles, she couldn’t help but still be a little disappointed that she simply felt “dampness” and not the popular cartoon version of clouds.  She knew reality but still felt let down when it was confirmed.

I think a lot of contingent workforce (CW) buyers can resonate with my sister’s experience. When we settle on a CW service, product or resource, we often feel things will be great or easy from here on out, even though the transition plan clearly shows there’s a lot of work ahead. Buyers comprehend the tasks yet-to-accomplish and the change management plan required to implement, but there’s still that hope; the hope that all will be easy, simple and quick. When it’s clear that the transition activities are not so easy, buyers (and often stakeholders) can feel the same disappointment or disenchantment my sister felt.

Facts that don’t match the emotions we have about a project or an implementation can reflect unfairly on you, your team or the supplier. Emotional discontent can unnecessarily spread and sour productivity, relationships or timelines even if things are actually going well! That expectant “hope” can overshadow good work and measurable progress if not immediately addressed.

To help avoid this disconnect here are a few things that a team should do:

  • Discuss and document expectations of implementation, transition and go-live activities with the stakeholder team and any suppliers and address any expectation that isn’t immediately reachable.
  • Set metrics to each agreed upon expectation to ensure that success is clearly defined and measurable.
  • Conduct status update meetings using a SWOT-like exercise (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to make sure that wins are being remembered and highlighted.
  • Set and acknowledge small goals throughout the transition plan and then market these to the stakeholder team and the business to demonstrate forward progress.
  • A lesser used but still effective checkpoint is to ask your supplier for one of their war stories. They all have them, they will always make you feel better and, more than likely, laugh. It’s small and antidotal but sometimes that’s all you need.

Expectations stem from emotion. However, the more precise the team is in discussing their expectations, the less likely that expectations won’t be met. Using measurable goals will allow a team to understand their progress at a quantifiable level and reviewing these often will consistently remind teams of their success while addressing areas of concern immediately. What my sister failed to realize in her disappointment of feeling the sky’s dampness was just how amazing it was that she could touch it at all.

Erika Novak

Erika Novak
Erika Novak (Halverson) is senior manager of global contingent workforce solutions and strategies at LinkedIn.

Erika Novak

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