View profile

Issue #28: Time and Perspective

A few years ago, we worked on a project for a startup in the gaming industry. We were designing a com

James Costa

September 26 · Issue #28 · View online
A batch of thoughts, resources, and motivation from a friendly digital agency owner delivered every Monday at 6am ET.

A few years ago, we worked on a project for a startup in the gaming industry. We were designing a community for them that allowed gamers to share achievements in games they were playing, and connect with others. I remember the excitement of the team when we won the project as it was something that spoke to our nerdy side and gave some wonderful visuals for design. Things were going really well in the project: we were proud of the work we were sharing, and the client seemed receptive to our ideas.
Then I got a tough email from our client. The client hadn’t heard anything from our team in a few business days, and were concerned about the project. Despite the fact that our team had been iterating internally on the design daily, they explained that every day they waited for an update their expectation on what was coming their way grew. We had delivered something shortly before receiving the email, and while we thought the work was some of our best, they felt as though it was underwhelming.
It made so much sense, and because we couldn’t meet the expectation they had built in their minds we were fired shortly afterwards. The death of the project was our fault: we had let our client’s expectation exceed our abilities, and it ended up burning out our team as well.
I continually go back to this story when I feel as though I’m in points of waiting. How often have you waited on a simple task to be done by your team, and felt the need to continually check in? How often can others say the same about you? Time’s relationship with expectation affects how we perceive others for better and for worse, and we often aren’t as direct as our clients were: we hide behind “check-ins” and “wondering”, as opposed to getting to the root solution.
The solution to the problem of people’s perception of time is a simple one: we need to encourage empathy, and set better expectations. This empathy is notoriously difficult in a remote team, as well. In the story I mentioned, our team (including myself) didn’t realize that the client was getting antsy because they hadn’t seen anything (i.e. lack of empathy). We could have easily avoided that situation by telling them when to expect a next deliverable and exactly what that deliverable was going to be (i.e. setting better expectations).
Having an empathetic team that understands the importance of the relationships they’re building is crucial. Since we failed that client, we’ve focused more on over communication, empathy, and the concept of “under promise, over deliver” with our team. We’re still not perfect at it and have a long way to go, but when I speak to others about their experiences with service-oriented businesses in particular, often problems are due to a lack of empathy.
Once we’ve set those expectations our goals become simple: achieve those expectations as we say we will. Anything less than that and we deserve the perceptions we receive.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d really appreciate your support sharing this newsletter. Whether it’s a forward, a Twitter post, or getting my name engraved on the back of your new iPhone 7, it would mean the world.

It’s always your fault
How To Identify When It's Time For A New Workflow, According To Science
Why You Should Leave I Out of Feedback
“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
― Douglas Adams
For the first time in a while, I’m starting to look at refining my resume for some board and advisory positions I’d like to apply for. It’s bringing a whole new perspective to all of the resumes I get the opportunity to read as an employer: verbs are hard, people.
If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, all you have to do is respond to this email.

Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue