Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Washington, DC-based freelance writer Dan Bailes contributed today's post. His clients include the MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the State Department. Between assignments, Dan explores storytelling through his blog, The Vision Thing.

We make assumptions all the time.

At a meeting we might say "yes" to an idea, a project or a goal, but what do we expect with that "yes?" We might assume we're all on the same page—but is that really true?

On the road to success, the easiest way to stumble is to ignore expectations.

We often run into unspoken expectations when we're asked to create something specific, like a report, a video or an event. Since expectations are rarely expressed, they don't come to the fore until you present your work. Then you might hear: "Oh, that's not what I had in mind at all."

We can have a conversation, agree on goals, move a project forward, and still hit a brick wall because we haven't asked key questions.

How do you tease out what your boss, client or colleague expects before you start on a project? You ask questions:
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Why are you launching this project in the first place?
  • Who is the project for?
  • How will the project meet unmet needs or solve a problem?
  • Once this project is out there, what do you envision happening—how will people respond?
Asking the right questions up front will help you make better decisions down the road.

What's the takeaway? Don't assume—ask!
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