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Great Expectations: The Power of Managing Expectations

When we moved from The Netherlands to the south of Germany in 2010, we didn’t know what to expect with the weather. The Netherlands have a sea climate, so loads of rain and mild summers and winters. We know frost of course, there’s the famous ‘Elfstedentocht’ for instance, a 120 miles long skating tour on natural ice. But the fact that it has only been held 15 times since 1909 should give you an idea of the winters there.


In Germany, we experienced winter on a whole new level. We had more snow than we had ever seen, combined with some frosty periods. It took us a while to get used to it, and at times I was mighty frustrated by all the snow shoveling, also because we hadn’t known what to expect. Plus, it always snowed most whenever my husband was traveling, so there was that!

When we moved to upstate New York in 2013, people kept warning us about the harsh winters. We already had friends who lived here and they shared some experiences of the cold winters. We’re in our third winter now here and we’ve had our share of snow and bitter cold, with the occasional polar vortex thrown in. Last winter we’ve had more snow than we thought was possible in one season and yesterday we hit -13 with a wind chill that made it feel like -30. But it hasn’t been an issue for us. You know why? Because we knew what to expect.

Managing expectations is a key leadership skill. Making sure others know what to expect from you, from your students, from your ministry, it’s crucial. Why?

It prevents disappointment. It prevents frustration. It prevents surprises (which is one of the things leaders hate most, especially those in charge, like your senior pastor!) It prevents conflict.

If your leaders know that due to personal reasons, you won’t be there at certain events, they won’t be disappointed.

If your senior pastor knows you have a volunteer shortage, he won’t be surprised when you cancel events.

If your students know that the first few weeks after the baby is born you won’t have any time for them, they won’t be frustrated when you’re off radar for a while.

If your spouse knows you’re spending extra time for a few weeks with a student who needs it, he or she won’t make an issue of it when you don’t make it home for dinner.

Make sure everyone around you knows what to expect from you, from each other, and from the church or the ministry. People form expectations, even if they don’t realize it themselves, and when these expectations aren’t met, or are violated in some way, that’s a big source for conflict. Being crystal clear about it up front can prevent all that.

In what area do you need to manage expectations more?

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