Challenges versus surprises

Amidst my 14 mile slog around not one, not two, but three Royal Parks yesterday morning I got to thinking about some stuff and found myself frowning. It might have been the sizeable blister that was forming on my right foot that was making me frown, but I think not in this instance.

I’ve been bought (dragged) up with the firm belief that the key to a good relationship – be it work, social or personal – is good communication. You affirm boundaries. You remove any ambiguity. You set clear expectations.

(Can you see why I work in communications?)

Minor aside for a second. There was a guy in my team when I worked at Freeserve called Peter Wootton, and he had the arduous job of overseeing the manufacture of the promotional CDs that we used in our marketing activity. Not very exciting, but to give you some context Freeserve used to produce somewhere in the region of 20 million CDs every year, using numerous different suppliers dotted around Europe. That’s a lot of CDs. And a lot of juggling of manufacturers. Peter always used to tell me in his more sage / wise moments that “challenges I can deal with, but surprises I can’t.” Fair enough. Good point. Not even I can argue with that logic.

So back to the source of the frown… Well I’d been thinking about something that happened recently. A friend of mine had told that they would do something. I didn’t ask them to do it. They told me that this was what they were going to do. Oh ok then. Very masterful. Fine. I will wait for that to happen before I do anything else. All good in the hood.

Days trundled on and the allotted deadline passed. At that point it quickly became clear to me that my friend had decided to do something entirely different. I don’t know why or what prompted the change in heart, but I do know that I didn’t hear a word from them. Not a dickie bird.

So the net result was that my expectations werent met. I was let down. Left hanging around feeling like a bit of a twit, whilst wondering what on earth was actually going on. With a frown firmly in place.

Now what’s the big deal here? So what. I got let down. It isnt the first time, adn sure’s hell wont be the last. No-one died. Where’s the issue? Well here’s the rub – I know that we are all human therefore imperfect and also fallible / forgetful / flaky sometimes etc., however it is irksome when people make a commitment, then realise that they cant come up with the goods, but don’t talk to you to reset your expectations. These commitments can be something really small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but size isn’t actually relevant here. It’s the lack of communication that is.

What I do for a living has instilled in my brain that if I make a commitment that I will do something, then I need to deliver on that commitment. I’ve got 900 people who will hold me accountable even if I decide that I’m not. A modicum of pressure.

Whilst I appreciate everyone has different priorities and sometimes things do have to slide, it doesn’t take two seconds just to reach out to someone and let them know that you aren’t going to be able to do what you said. Peter was spot on. Challenges? We can all deal with them. Suprises? Not so much…

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