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Great expectations – on ourselves and with our clients

By April 15, 2016May 24th, 2021Business, verve

Do you ever catch yourself wondering why a certain person isn’t doing something you expected? Such as when you’ve asked your partner to put the bins out, and they don’t? They’re funny things, expectations. Because they often come about unwittingly for both the expect-ee and expect-er. They can creep up on you.

I’ve been ruminating this week about the “expectation dynamism” that manifests in the client/designer relationship. This thinking has also led me to ponder that we perhaps have a strange relationship with the expectations we set for ourselves.

What is this expect-ee and expect-er partnership that I’m talking about? And how does it work within ourselves? Well, an expect-ee is someone who doesn’t know what’s expected of them, until it causes damage to the expect-ter. As the relationship grows, the expectations for the level of value and quality grow higher, as the expect-ter always subconsciously thinks the expect-tee can grow and be better every time.

I can use the relationship between designer and client as an example. A few years ago I worked with a client who needed help with selecting a colour scheme for the entrance hall of their new office space. Wanting to support them in anyway I could, I assisted with helping them select lights and paint, colours and furniture. Now I’m no interior designer, but I wanted their overall brand to look right. However, I soon found myself being the project manager of the interior fit out and dealing with tradesmen and coordinating the installations. Things soon turned, with the project stalling and errors occurring. All of a sudden my job role of being their graphic designer extended to a role I wasn’t familiar with. I learnt a lot with that project, including that it’s very important to be clear about what you can and can’t help with. I should have stopped after assisting with colours and suggested engaging an interior designer instead.

Over time, I’ve come to realise that it’s better to simplify your offerings to reduce unhealthy expectations. That goes for unhealthy expectations on yourself and it also relates to setting up unhealthy expectations of your skillset with your clients.


In business, expectations are a super fine line between communicating what you can do and what you can’t. How can someone know what to expect of you if you don’t tell them? Is it right not to set them within your own boundaries? And how can you communicate in a way that is consistent to what you want them to expect of you?


In the early days of running my business, I really wanted to help all my clients, any way I could. Even if I didn’t know how to do something, I would find a way. What did this create? It helped my clients to a point, but it also landed me in a sticky position. I was expecting too much of myself. I was both the expect-ee and the expert-er – all in one.

My clients expected I could be a jack-of-all-trades, even though I wasn’t and didn’t want to be. My heart was in the right place – I wanted them to have a good result and I would help them get there anyway I could, but it put me in an awkward place of unrealistic expectations (from the client and on myself). Clients began to presume I had certain skills and I would raise the stakes for myself some more. This meant I technically couldn’t guarantee results for them, because it just wasn’t my experience or skill set. It also confused the client as to what it was I actually did!

So, in thinking about the expectee/expecter relationship in business, and considering where I have gone wrong in setting up poor expectations with clients, and myself, I wanted to ask you these  questions,

  • In business, are you clear on what you actually do to help your clients? Or are you in the muddy waters of unclear vision?
  • If you could provide one core service to your clients, what would that be? Are you doing that a majority of the time in your business?
  • What is a central way you can help your clients? Are you doing this or doing something else?
  • If you feel that perhaps you are not aligning your current services with what you can expect of yourself, does something need to change in your mindset or offerings? What could this unhealthy expectation-situation ultimately be doing to you, your health and your business?

Imagine the time you could invest into helping your clients with one core product, service or approach. Think of the potentially magnificent results if there was focus to what you offered. The alternative is to help your clients in 10 ways and not achieve the results they expected or could have had. Better still, is it possible they’re hiring you to help them with the thing you’re actually an expert at, and not wanting to use your valuable time for things you don’t have skill or interest in?

What I’ve learned, and have revisited in my thoughts this week, is that it’s better to stick to what you know, and what you do best. Then, in the gaps, you can find others who have skills in the areas the project needs help with – that you don’t need to expect of yourself. And you can collaborate (which I love) with those right professionals for your client’s project. In turn you’ll get a lot more out of it, and your client will have a number of experts doing the exact task they’re made for. In this brighter, more collaborative situation, there’s a clear and agreed expectation for all roles, within each party member and within the project team overall. This has got to be the best way to create expect-tees and expect-ers that are as happy as can be!

If you’re unclear about any of the questions I have asked above, why not work with me in getting clarity on your branding and business visioning? I have limited spaces open now for Winter 2016 for our 5 week brand and business visioning program. Click here to email me for more information.