Expectations and Due Diligence

Click above for an introduction from Senior Management Coach Brett Morris

Recently I tripped over an assumption on the way to a bike repair shop and the result was a lot of unnecessary frustration. 

Here’s my story.

After years of neglect, I gingerly rode my 25-year-old bicycle to Village Bikes last week to see if there was any life left in the old girl. Fortunately there was, and the shop called me two days later to tell me it was ready to ride.

The next day, I decided to get some extra exercise and walk the 3.6 miles to the bike shop in the 94° heat. It was actually a fun walk but fairly challenging given the Florida humidity as well my 50-year-old legs. I was worn out when I got there.

I arrived well before their posted 6 PM closing time, but immediately noticed a big piece of plywood where the glass door used to be with a hand written sign that said, “CLOSED.”

When I knocked on the door a guy came out to tell me they had been broken into the night before, and he was still noticeably upset about it. He was also unimpressed with my sob story about expecting a leisurely ride home on my “new” bike after trudging to the shop. Reluctantly, he opened up the store, got my cruiser out, and let me ride it home. 

I got lucky, but noticed I had almost found myself in a pickle. It would’ve been easy to call the shop in advance and confirm their hours, but this time, I chose to assume they would be open.

In Don Miquel Ruiz’s book of Toltec wisdom The Four Agreements, Agreement #3 is Don’t Make Assumptions. In this section, Ruiz says we can easily avoid conflict and drama by getting clear on what we expect of each other. 

My assumption that the shop would be open created very little potential for drama, as walking home would not have been a big deal. But have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?

Have you ever assumed something “should” be a certain way? 

In her short article on assumptions, Sarah Blick says when we assume we “fill in the blanks with (our) interpretation of what (we) see or hear.”  It sounds like she’s saying our assumption is just a guess at reality.

One remedy to assumptive behavior is to get clear on expectations, and to practice the process of Requests and Promises. It keeps transactions clean and free of unnecessary hiccups, speed bumps or roadblocks. These are called Conversations For Action*, and when we make them specific, measurable, and in time, many of the headaches associated with assumptions are eliminated. 

*based on the work of Fernando Flores

Do I personally do this every time? – Obviously not.

The bike shop story is just one of many examples where I’ve laid the groundwork for inconvenient “learning experiences.” However, years of doing this transformational work on accountability and communication has made it a lot easier for me to find myself at the source of my suffering when I do create a mess. 

Realizing this again and again is both empowering and humbling. 

What are some times you can recall when you could have been clearer on expectations? What was learned, and what difference did that learning make?

We’d love to know.


Fundamental of the Week #15: BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR SETTING AND RECEIVING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS Make sure your expectations are clear and what people hear is what you are asking. Be clear about what’s expected of you.

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