“You should know before you begin some of the issues that have been problems for me in the past,” the project manager began. She then began going through specific examples of what she called her past pet peeves in project management: a worker who created lots of issues by speaking directly to the client about his project concerns, another worker who she saw socializing constantly in the office but who kept telling her she didn’t have time to get stuff done, a worker who didn't inform her that his direct supervisor kept pulling him for other projects. After each example, she then expressed what she would rather have seen communicated and done instead of what actually happened.
Use the Past to Benefit the Future
When it comes to boundary and expectations conversations at the start of a project or any type of relationship launch, reviewing a short list of things that have gone wrong in the past and how you see they should be handled if they come up again is an excellent way to ward off those same problems. By providing direct examples, you are telling the person what you expect in a very clear way. If the examples are good enough, you are also providing valuable insights into how a person needs to work with you to accomplish the end goal. You are giving them a personal and professional context and background they wouldn’t get or understand otherwise.
This way of dealing with and warding off issues before they occur doesn’t just work in project management. It works when you find yourself the boss of a new group or even when you are teaching a new class. If there are areas which are a concern to you, it’s important to bring those areas up at the start so you can be clear about what your expectations actually are. It gives people a basis to predict how you want similar situations handled in the future and it creates a teachable moment ahead of any problems actually occurring.
Common wisdom says that if you aren't clear upfront, you shouldn't be surprised when you have problems later. Many a project or even supervisor-subordinate relationship can be spared a multitude of issues by incorporating this additional piece of information and dialogue into your expectations conversations.
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