Based in Chicago, Omerisms is a blog by Omer Abdullah. His posts explore Ideas, perspectives and points of view across business, sales, marketing, life and (sometimes) football (the real kind).

No One Likes Surprises

When it comes to the work we do, no one likes surprises.

It doesn’t matter which part of the organization you sit in - client management, operations, marketing or elsewhere - one of the fundamental tenets of corporate performance is predictability. We want to know what’s happening, why and, if necessary, what we need to do about it.

(This is the same whether we’re a solo flyer, in a startup or part of a corporate behemoth.)

The reality, of course, is that this isn’t always possible. Any venture will have twists and turns, problems and issues, challenges that come up that we need to grapple with. That’s life, of course.

But sometimes we make these things harder than they should be. We put ourselves in situations that unnecessarily yield surprises. And more often than not, it’s down to two things.

Not listening and not communicating.

We don’t do the work needed to listen, to hear what our stakeholders and customer are telling us, either explicitly or implicitly. We don’t pay enough attention to changes in management, or the consistent missed conference calls, or we take the feedback mechanisms we’ve put in place for granted. In other words, we don’t consider all of the informal signals that present themselves to us in assessing a given client relationship or business situation.

Or we don’t communicate enough. We see an issue, a pattern developing, an odd behavior that doesn’t match the usual, but we ignore it. We brush it off because everything seems to be going fine. Or because we’re concerned about the confrontation, the consequences. It’s not worth bringing up. But if we feel it in our gut, is that the right thing to do?

When we don’t listen or communicate often and effectively enough, we create bubbles between us and our stakeholders. Bubbles that build until we have situations that yield surprises. Almost always, bad ones.

And no one likes surprises.

Better instead for us to listen more thoughtfully. To take in all sorts of data points, to not take anything for granted.

Better for us to communicate. To speak up when we see something out of the ordinary. To risk a little (or a lot of) confrontation in an effort to ensure we are all aligned and working towards the same goals.

Because engagement is better than blind acceptance. Debate is better than acquiescence.

That’s the only way we can minimize unpleasant surprises and move forward together.

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