Great Expectations

at 12:35 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Have you ever experienced how a brief moment shifts your perception forever?

For me, one of these moments came while I was attending UC Berkeley a few years ago. When giving a talk, associate vice chancellor Ron Coley shared about a college paper he wrote answering his philosophy professor's prompt, "What is the biggest problem in the world?"

His answer was mismatched expectations.

This response got me thinking. How often did my expectations lead to disappointment when reality fell short of what I imagined it would be? Equally valid, how many times had I gone into a situation expecting nothing, leaving overjoyed with the results?

Think about it. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the hostess said your table would be ready in five minutes? After 10 minutes pass, you start to get grumpy and after 15, you get really upset. Finally when you are seated 20 minutes after being told it would only take five, you are fuming because of the expectation that had been set.


If, instead, the hostess said it would take 45 minutes for your table to be ready but it took only 30, you would walk to your table with a little skip in your step. Notice that in the second scenario, however, that it took 10 minutes longer to get seated, but the expectation set greatly influenced your perception.

The issue of mismatched expectations has continued to resonate with me over the years and is a lesson I call on regularly in many areas of my life. Whether I'm at work, with friends or embarking on a new project, I am mindful of setting expectations. When I manage a new group of employees, I share what my expectations are and also ask my employees what expectations they have of me as a manager. It has had a tremendous impact on my team's culture and has helped me to proactively avoid issues.

While it is easy to forget, now I take the time to set expectations first, clarifying what I expect and gathering the expectations of others. I have seen that on many occasions this has meant the difference between peace and harmony and hurt feelings and conflict.

With a perspective, I'm Aaron McDaniel.

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, speaker and author of a book of advice to young professionals.