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Setting Expectations

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What sort of expectations do you have? Are you a person who thinks we should be expectation free so as to avoid disappointment? Or do you see expectations similar to goals: ideas that provide forward movement and something to strive for?

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I fall in the later camp and tend to agree with Sam Walton when he said, "High expectations are the key to everything." I can't help it; I expect a lot. I'm not sure how I would ever go about changing that.

These expectations can also be a set-up for disappointment. When expectations are high for myself, I can get frustrated when I don't live up to my own standards. When I expect much from others, they may or may not reach the lofty criteria I've set in my head for them.

On the other hand, I have seen time and time again when high expectations have delivered. Perhaps not at the same standard of the original expectation; however, results were achieved that may not have been met if the bar hadn't been set high.

Several years ago I was building a new team with all new employees. As we went about the process to set expectations with leadership above us, I set the expectation that this group would deliver at the same level as other established teams. No special treatment, our goal was to be as good as everyone else as quickly as we could be.

And it happened.

The reason for setting expectations high was simple - I'd seen it work in reverse. If expectations were that new-hires wouldn't perform as well as tenured staff, the new team met that expectation. Turning those expectations around took a lot of time, years even.

Of course, it wasn't the expectation alone that made this happen; there's a lot that goes into a successful team. Nevertheless, it played an important part and reinforced my belief in how important setting expectations high can be.

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