What To Do When Expected Outcomes Fall Short

So there you are working with someone on a project. In your mind everything is going smoothly. You’ve locked arms and are walking down the yellow brick road to success and happiness. Until…. you’re not.

Suddenly, things start to go awry. Deadlines are missed or the deliverable isn’t quite what you expected or you’re at point A and your partner is at point B, when you’re both supposed to be at point C. Red warning bells are going off. Your temper is starting to flare and you just can’t understand how you could possibly be on two completely different pages.

When this happens it’s easy to blame the other person. Clearly they are incompetent, don’t listen, are clueless, right? I mean how could they not know what you want?

Wrong. Chances are YOU’RE the problem.

What?! Not me! I’m perfect.

Yes, YOU. Somewhere down the line you thought you communicated clearly and well, you didn’t.

After you put out the fires, fix the deliverables, meet the deadline, get to point C with your partner. After the mess is cleaned up, take some time to reflect on your process, your plan, your communication methods, the words you used, the timing of the message. What are some ways you could have approached this differently? What will you do next time to yield a different outcome?

Take some time to understand the person you are working with and make sure you are communicating in a way they understand. Are you someone who analyzes and plans every possible detail to the nth degree and your partner wants not just the Cliff Notes version, but the bulleted Cliff Notes version? This is important to know so you can deliver your message in a way it will be received. On the contrary, if you are not a detailed person and your co-worker is, they may not have enough information from you to succeed.

Make sure you are communicating at the appropriate time. Are you giving enough time to make sure the task gets completed or did you just dump this on someone’s plate? Are you communicating too far out from the deadline that your project gets forgotten? And don’t forget about follow up. Keep projects moving with periodic follow up calls or meetings. Over-communicate.

Lastly, make sure you clearly define the expectations. For some complex projects you might need to take the time to show examples, document the business requirements, create some sketches, etc. Take the time to get specific with the details and the project will be closer to your expectations.

Working on teams is difficult and self-reflection is hard, but you can improve your chances of outcomes meeting your expectations through clear communication.