On Clear Expectations and Assumptions

Now… why on EARTH would I need a cell phone?!” I exclaimed to my new husband in the year 2001.

I’ve never needed one before. If you need to get a hold of me, just call my work or leave me a note at home.”

Yes, in my young life, I didn’t have a cell phone, pager, beeper, or any way to contact me other than an old school answering machine. After all, why would anyone need me at any time? I will answer when I can answer.

For context, I had been very independent in my single life, from the time I left home at 18 to the time I got married at almost 26. No one ever needed to keep tabs on me. I showed up where and when I needed to, and I answered messages when it convenienced me.

My kind new husband looked at me and said “Because I worry.”

What I considered to be “keeping tabs” on me he considered to be caring for his new and delicate bride who may get lost or hurt at any time. He had no interest in controlling my activities; just to know in his heart that I was safe. Otherwise, he was worrying himself sick, literally.

Oh.” I looked at the huge Nokia phone with an antenna (remember those?), looked at him, and realized it wasn’t all about me anymore. He wasn’t a threat to my freedom. He was my life partner that sincerely cared.

Like most married couples, we had to talk about expectations and assumptions. My assumption was that my life would go on looking much the same but with a life partner. His assumption was that his role was to give me the best life possible, including being my protector. We had to have a real discussion on what we wanted married life to look like, and discuss our expectations of living a life as 100% partners.

Needless to say, it wasn’t one conversation. And coming now toward our 19th year anniversary, we still have to have conversations about expectations, especially with increasingly independent kids. I think the part of the conversation most important, and one that could have minimized early misunderstandings and therefore arguments, is the clarity of the expectation.

For instance, it took me a while to actually check the said cell phone. I would leave it somewhere all day, not check it for days, or just forget about it. We had to have the conversation of answering the cell phone, especially if I had changed plans and was off doing whatever for hours on end, which was a likely occurrence in my 20’s.

At the same time, I had to be clear on what I expected from him, and what I expected of myself. I had to step up my game and be accountable for his peace-of-mind while not violating our trust for each other. What we learned along the way was that though we are equal partners in marriage, our expectations are different, and meeting our own and each others’ took quite some time. I still catch myself sometimes , saying “Oh, did I mention this to Eric?”.

In any partnership or team environment, as I have learned here at Momentum, the conversations are much the same.

There must be clear expectations made by all team members, and a lot of times, they have to be revisited and restated, especially because all of us are listening through our own filter. We don’t necessarily get the expectation as explained the first time.

When a breakdown occurs, the question becomes “what was not made clear?” Rather than, “why didn’t she understand me?” The clarity is a two way street, where just expecting everyone else to understand is sometimes lacking in perception.

How are you clear in expectations at work and at home? Do you have regular meetings and follow ups on topics often that need constant clarification? How do you share with a team the level of clarity that you expect? Is that something that needs another look?

Carrie (Executive Assistant, Momentum Consulting)

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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