Setting Clear Expectations

Jan 18, 2024

If you want to create predictability in your life, in your business and with your patients, you must set clear expectations (and take a necessary next step). In fact, this topic comes up often with various clients and within our own practice.

Clear expectations can make the difference between having a sense of calm, predictability and success in your life and business OR chaos, feeling like you are starting over all the time and failure. Whether you are implementing a new product or service in your practice, desire a new reality in your home life or want to help your patients be set up for success, you’ve got to set clear expectations.

Here are a couple of practical applications. Perhaps you set a goal for yourself in your personal life to lose 10 pounds – just like some of your patients probably do. If you want to lose weight you’ve got to set the expectation that you are going to lose that weight. It’s not just setting the expectation, I know that’s not what’s going to make the difference and move the needle, you’ve got to have clear actions (and commitment) in place. If you set these clear expectations with a doable action plan, you will be much less likely to disappoint yourself with avoidance or inaction. This doable action plan may include outside triggers/accountability like a chart so you can check off that you got your water, that you did your exercise that day, that you kept your carbohydrates to a certain level, that you did all the right things that you needed to do, but in addition you must have the clear expectation that it is going to happen. That this is going to be your new normal for it to actually take place.

Now let’s talk about your practice.

Here is a business example. Over ten years ago, our surgeon (Dr. Thomas W. Clark) decided to start doing most sleeve gastrectomy surgeries as an outpatient procedure. This is exactly what happened and was a welcomed change for everyone involved. However, as you can imagine, this required a change in expectations for everybody! From the patient, to the hospital, to anesthesia, and to our team in the office. It required a big change in expectations as well as clear pre-determined planning to guide the process. Once the new expectation is set and it is reinforced with follow-through, before you know it, this expectation becomes your new normal. In this example, when patients experienced this new normal, they found that they liked it much better! They preferred being home with their loved ones. This expectation is a reality and has been occurring successfully now for over a decade, it’s the normal. How did that happen? It was setting an expectation for all the team and for the patients, creating a doable plan and then following through.

If you think about it, if you set up the expectation for your patients that after surgery, they’re going to have a lot of pain and a lot of nausea, that’s likely what’s going to happen. If you set the expectation that most people are off their pain medications within one day, they sip and move, and nausea is rarely a problem (which is true), that becomes the reality. I can’t think of the last time we had to readmit someone for dehydration or nausea and vomiting. It’s one of those things that when you set expectations up front, it can make a huge difference in making that the experienced reality.

We’re getting ready to launch a new service in our practice now so we did our due diligence prior to making the decision to begin. Now we are putting everything into place for a successful launch. This required setting expectations right from the beginning. First, making sure everyone was on board with it and then also setting the expectation that we’re going to offer this new service without additional staff or office disruption other than the expected new service growing pains. The team and I are working through the changes together. I firmly believe that team involvement and clear expectations as to the desired outcome set at the very beginning makes the difference between a very smooth transition verses a transition fraught with confusion and comments like “Well, this isn’t what I signed on for…”.

As another practice example relates to your team. If there’s a behavior that’s happening such as tardiness you need to make sure your expectation was clear – arrival at 8:45am. If someone is not following through, you remind them of the expectation, explore what the issue is, try to help them work through that issue and finally document if the problem persists. It is always best to have this conversation early on rather than letting it fester and become their new norm and a poor example to others.

Finally, it is the same thing with your patients.

If you set that expectation that they’re going to lose five pounds a week with medical weight loss, you set them up for failure. As another example, you must be very realistic and set the expectation that if their appointment is at 9:00 and you expect them to be there earlier, so they are with the physician at the time of their scheduled appointment. People appreciate clear instructions, and they value knowing what to expect. You can guide what becomes normal in your practice by being clear about your expectations. If you never share your expectations with your team, with your patients or with yourself, then building an enjoyable practice with predictable outcomes is going to be difficult.

The simple thing to do is to set those expectations up front even if you must negotiate them a little bit. It’s just a conversation and it’s much better to have that conversation ahead of time versus later once misunderstandings occur.

When the pandemic hit last year, none of us knew it was going to be our new normal to wear masks every day, but it became it became the expectation and that became the norm. It’s just an example of that but it’s one of those things you can take and turn into something positive. If there’s a frustration in your life or if there’s some behavior that’s not being followed through on, ask yourself whether you set the expectation of what you wanted ahead of time or did you set the expectation for exactly what the reality is right now?

I encourage you to work through this and approach it very positively. A simple conversation can make fa huge difference. While I was meeting with my managers last week about this new service we’re going to offer, one of the things that one of them mentioned is that they really appreciate the transparency that happens. I believe in that. I believe if I’m transparent and I help them understand where I’m coming from when decisions are being made or when we’re making those decisions together, we can all share our viewpoints up front. It just helps make things run so much more smoothly.

I hope you take this to heart. I hope you implement this, whether it’s a personal goal, whether it’s something with your family, whether it’s something with your practice and specifically with your patients. Setting clear expectations is what will create your future and you do that every single day whether we realize it or not so let’s do it in a real positive, proactive way. Have those conversations about what the expectations are and then also follow through on them. Then when perhaps expectations weren’t followed, it’s something that is much easier to discuss. You will be better able to identify barriers and determine if you need to make some tweaks along the way. Remember, you are creating your future by your actions today.

I hope this serves you well. Please have a great day. I know it’s stressful right now with more shutdowns but I am proud of the work so many people are doing in terms of adding new services, beefing up the products that they have and really fine-tuning their social media strategy. So many different things in their practice that are going on and I am honored to be a part of that with so many of you. It is really something that brings joy to me every day. Reach out to me if you need any assistance at [email protected] and if you are not a member of Bariatric Business Boss yet, check it out at

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.