Expectation Management - How to Create Stronger Relationships | FreshGigs.ca

3 Steps to Managing Your Work More Effectively

As marketing, communication and creative professionals in Canada, our role is to find creative solutions to help our clients find success. We consider questions like the following:

  • What are the consequences if we …
  • Why do we…
  • Tell me more about…
  • Give me some examples of…

We blend ideas.  We ask questions our clients haven’t thought about.  We turn ideas on their head.

We create value by combining process and content to deliver ideas that resonate with our targeted audience.

In the workshops that I run with my clients, we never have trouble coming up with lots of good ideas.

But oftentimes, the biggest challenge for successfully completing a project is setting and managing expectations. Whether you are an internal stakeholder or an external consultant, creating and managing relationships is the foundation of project success.

How do you set and manage project expectations?

Here are some of the common considerations to build stronger relationships – right from the start.

1. Develop Shared Expectations

Okay, so this seems obvious, but time and time again, issues arise at the halfway point in a project because we became so excited about ideas that we forgot to develop shared values around project success and the measures we use to measure success.

Yes.  All strategy relies on deploying specific tactics.  But it’s important to take time to understand why the project is being considered, from a professional and personal standpoint.

The Oatmeal has captured what happens if you don’t in the classic, “How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell”.

Author Alan Weiss believes it’s important to address questions around objectives, metrics and values. Here are some key questions to ensure the project gets off to a great start:


  • What results are we trying to achieve?
  • How would the company be different as a result of this work?
  • What’s the harm if we don’t change?
  • Why should we deploy this project now?


  • How will the project be measured?
  • How, specifically will we know we achieved the right results?
  • What are the assessments we perform to determine progress?
  • What are key milestones?
  • Each time we discuss the project, what standards will indicate we’re progressing?

Value Questions

  • How will these results impact the bottom line?
  • What is the intangible impact (on reputation, trust etc)
  • What is the scope of the impact (on customers, employees, vendors)?
  • How does this project fit into the overall company objectives?
  • What if this doesn’t succeed?

A clear scope of work document captures the important project details, budgets and metrics but more importantly, it also helps determine the values that drive success.

Taking the time to set the project right from the start helps ensure the client and consultant relationship rests on a footing of clear communication.

2. Listen.  Really Listen.

Effective communication is about taking the time to remove distractions and stay focused on what the other person is saying.  How often are you thinking ahead of the conversation?  Instead of racing ahead, slow things down.  Mirror back what is being said.  Watch your body language.  Take your time to respond.  Check in regularly with your team members.  Let the group know early about changes in project to prevent missed deadlines and think about possible obstacles before they happen.

The project — and more importantly — your relationship will be better for it.

3. Focus on the Things that Matter – Busy work vs. productive work.

Are you spending time on the right priorities?  Once a project is underway, people often fall into trap of confusing activity for productivity.  Review and readjust priorities based on your results.  Test different ideas and use metrics and regular feedback to determine activities that drive value.

How about you?

What steps do you take to ensure you have set the right expectations with your clients or boss?

Melissa Breker is the president of Fresh Spark Strategies, a content strategy and development group located in Vancouver. With over 10 years of experience, she works closely with clients to connect the right content with the right audience. @melissabreker