You Will Gain Credibility if You Manage Expectations

Think about a time when you were disappointed. Someone promised but did not deliver. Perhaps you had even made plans around your expectation that the other person would keep a promise.

What did you think of that person afterwards? Obviously, you could no longer trust the person.

Timely and accurate communication is crucial toward developing and maintaining trust in business relationships. Conversely, misleading or nonexistent messages engender distrust.

I experienced both the good and the bad in a recent situation. A supplier promised to quickly provide documents once I made a payment. I needed to provide these documents to a customer. Upon receiving my payment, rather than fulfilling the promise, the supplier said he would wait a few more days. I communicated this clearly and promptly to the customer, and I said I would provide an update as soon as I had one.

This conveyed to the customer that I was “on it,” and the customer’s response was one of gratitude even though the message I had conveyed was negative.

On the flip side, I have no trust in that supplier because I know in hindsight that I was misled by someone who lacked integrity.

Building trust requires a long-term pattern of delivering on the promise. Conversely, destroying trust is as easy as promising and not delivering.

Most of all, if you want to build trust, you must manage expectations. Do not induce people to “play ball” with you by misleading them about what they can hope to accomplish from dealing with you.

Some people will see right through your empty promises. Less savvy people might initially be impressed, but once you disappoint them, they will start to spread the word that you cannot be trusted.

How do you manage expectations? Again, one of the keys is communication. Convey relevant information in a timely manner. Filter information before you pass it along to make sure it is reliable. For example, even though I had been “promised” that I would receive information from the supplier, I had to temper my “promise” to the customer because I did not know whether the supplier would make good on his promise.

Become a reliable person. Listen more than you speak. This will help you know what you can legitimately promise. Don’t promise unless you know you can perform. If you have done all you can but an unexpected contingency materializes, the bad news will get worse with age. Quickly communicate the relevant details you know, along with your action plan for fixing the problem.

Don’t be like the supplier who promised but had no intention of delivering. Also, even if you do have the intention of following through, make sure you really have the capability to do so before you make a promise. This means you have to honestly assess and come to terms with reality, not mere delusions or wishful thinking.