Stop Breaking Hearts…


…and start setting better expectations.

The above slide is oh so true.

 When we fail to set proper expectations we fail people that we care about in unforeseen ways.  It might not be our intention, but it happens.

How about an employee being fired after being told they were doing a fine job most of the year?

How about the husband (or wife) that reveals that he does not want kids 3 years into a marriage?

Ever have a client upset about a deliverable not being delivered?  Often times you didn’t manage the expectations to include the timeline and why.

How about the friend that doesn’t respond to your texts and calls?  Did they tell you why?

How about the employee that is told they are not doing a good job after never receiving expectations from their boss?

How about the time you got irritated with your spouse because they were not doing something yet you never really asked them to do it?  Eventually you lashed out.

All of the above are directly related to communicating what you expect of someone.  And in every case the potential for frustration and misalignment is present.

I do not have any magical words on how to set better expectations other than to simply do it.  What I do have is many examples of how hearts have been broken because someone failed to think through and then articulate expectations.  Believe me, this shows up in my work almost daily.  What I am asking you to do is to reflect on where this is problematic in your life.  I should note that the conversations when setting expectations will look and feel very different in your personal and professional lives.  I wouldn’t sit my wife down and say, “I expect you to go to the grocery store, cut the lawn, and cook dinner today.”  Imagine how that would go over!  At work you could present it in this manner.  By the way, I don’t ask my wife to do any of these things 🙂

Here is an example of how not setting expectations shows up.

I recently had a manager that was complaining about an employees performance.  When I probed about the specifics I really could not get a definitive answer.  When I asked what did this manager expect of his employee, again, I couldn’t get anything definitive.  This was problematic.  What was more problematic is that this manager was thinking about letting the employee go.  No bueno.  I explained to the manager that at this point I thought the employees “poor performance” actually was the managers fault.  The employee did not know what was expected of him so how the hell could he not meet, meet, or exceed expectations on his review.  More so, the employee was not provided a road map to be seen as successful. I was able to pull out of the manager a list of expectations, that if met, would make him view the employee in a much different light.  It will be interesting to see if this employee succeeds now that he is equipped with what is expected of him.  My guess is I just might have saved another broken heart.

There is also a flip side to this that I often come about….adjusting your own expectations of someone or situation to avoid being disappointed.  You know, like when you were disappointed on prom night 🙂  If you find yourself continuously being let down by someone or something (like take out food) perhaps it is you that has put your own, and too high, expectations on them.  Let me give you a quick illustration of what I mean here.  I would’t expect to call Comcast (cable provider) and get great customer service.  Ha!  Now you really get what I am saying.  But if I called Comcast with the expectation that I would only be on the phone for 10 minutes and that my problem would be solved without being transferred 3 times, I would likely blow a gasket by the end of the call.  We do this all of the time.  Everyday.  All day.

Today I was about to start a meeting and someone asked me “How often do you post new content?”  My answer, “Probably not often enough.”  His reply, “Good answer.”  Another person asked me if I quit writing my blog. I clearly knew these questions came on the heels of me not putting out a post for almost two weeks. Smacked in the face with the reality that I have not practiced what I preached.

I failed to set exceptions with you, my readers.  Well, I actually did set an expectation, unintentionally, by posting weekly but that is not realistic in my current world.  This is a another issue with expectations…setting expectations perhaps unintentionally….like responding to texts on the dime.  That is what people begin to expect of you and then when you don’t…stories are created.

But back to my main point….

You see, If I had set an expectation with my readers then I wouldn’t have fielded such questions because they would have known what to expect.  Now, I am far too insecure to believe that I am breaking someone’s heart by not posting a new post weekly.  The good news is these questions of me sparked my thinking behind this post.  And the reason why I will now set an expectation and give you my ‘why’ behind it.

You should expect to see at least two new posts a month.  I would be lying if I said I did not have time to write posts at least weekly.  Sure, things have been busy at work and at home, but I could make time.  Truth is I choose to use my time in other ways.  If I had a choice to spend some quality time with my family or write a post, I would spend time with my family.  If writing a post was in lieu of being in front of a client, I would be in front of my client.  If you go back to my first post you will understand why I started this blog and my intent has not strayed an ounce.

As with most posts, as I wind down the writing my mind spins with the depth of the topic.  If nothing else, please take the foundation of what I am talking about here and pinpoint where you could improve.  First, where could you do a better job in setting expectations?  Second, when and where are you finding yourself being let down because your expectations are not realistic?

In closing, I appreciate all the support in writing this blog.  More than that I appreciate the engagement, comments, and willingness of all of you to read my thoughts with an open mind and slow down and think about things.  Remember, one starfish back in the ocean at a time.  Finally, I will promise to get at least two posts out a month 🙂

Now, go stop breaking hearts…including your own.


Stay True,





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One thoughtful comment

  1. Great stuff Ted and something I remind people of frequently. Setting expectations is a big step in building healthy relationships, work or personal. Couldn’t agree with you more!

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