When you and your stakeholders don’t see eye-to-eye on the timing of communications and deadlines —stress happens! To help you prevent frustration and feel more in control, here's how to set expectations with customers and colleagues.
So, why is setting time expectations so important?
The challenge for government leaders is that if you don’t set expectations, your stakeholders will. That means you may go for months–or even years–feeling like you’re constantly being thrown for a loop by everyone else’s whims. Most customers don’t know what’s reasonable in your position so for everyone to be happy, you need to let them know what to expect.
Communication is by far one of the biggest issues. If government leaders don’t set clear boundaries on when they will and won’t be available to answer the questions of customers and colleagues they will never feel like they have a break.
How should I set time expectations around email, voicemail, etc.?
Set limits on when you and your staff will be accessible, and as much as possible, stick with them. Also try not to set the expectation that you will answer communication immediately. If you consistently answer email and voicemail in about 24 hours, customers and colleagues won’t be upset if they don’t hear from you right away. (For more info on this topic, check out my blog post on How to Set E-mail Expectations.)
What about when you don’t hear back from colleagues?
When colleague don’t communicate a decision until right before a deadline, it can wreak havoc on your workflow. You can use this type of approach to set standards for communication with your colleague:
Dear [name of colleague]:
I’ve attached the proposal for the work we discussed. In order to meet your deadline of Friday, July 19, I’ll need to hear back from you by Friday, July 12. If I receive a decision from you after the 10th, we’ll need to move back the deadline.
We look forward to working with you.
All the best,
What other ways can government leaders eliminate deadline stress?
If you don’t make promises to deliver decisions or services “by tomorrow” or “by next week,” you can reduce stress by increasing your timeline. Also, government leaders shouldn’t make commitments to a deadline until they have a clear sense of when they can complete the work. Just because a customer or colleague wants something as soon as possible, doesn’t mean that you should stay up until 2 a.m. trying to finish everything for them.
If there’s any part of your workflow that’s causing you time stress, ask yourself the question, “Should I be setting my expectations differently for myself or others?” Most of the time the answer is, “Yes!”
Elizabeth Grace Saunders, CEO of Real Life E®, a company that provides time coaching and training services that help government leaders feel peaceful and accomplished
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