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How to Make Expectations Work for You

It’s impossible to be successful in business, ministry, or in life without learning to manage the expectations of others.

When I first became pastor of The Oaks, I sat down with the elders of the church, and I asked them to write down on a card all the things they expected from me as their pastor. I wrote down everything they put on a card on a white board in the room. There were 36 different things. I looked at them and said, “This is impossible for one person to do.”

I’m glad they all agreed.

So I began asking them if it would be okay if I had someone else do most of the hospital calls. They said, “Sure, as long as they get done.”

I said, “What about counseling? Can I get someone else to do that?” Again, they said, “Sure, as long as it’s handled with excellence.”

We were able to erase (delegate) everything on the board but three things. They wanted me to:

1. Be the visionary leader of the organization (this included raising funds).

2. Hire, train, and fire the staff of our church

3. Show up to preach

I learned 3 HUGE things through this process:

1. You have to clearly set expectations, or you will never know when you are meeting them.

If I had left it up to the nine men in that room to judge my success, each one of them would have defined it differently, leaving me with the impossible task of trying to meet 36 different expectations on the board.

2. If you aren’t going to be able to meet expectations, manage them.

If you can’t deliver what you promised, or can’t get it done on time, you better let people know. If I tell my wife I’ll be home at 6 p.m. and I get home at 7, I will be in big trouble. She’ll look at me when I come through the door and say, “Why are you so late? I thought (expectation) you were going to be home at 6. You could have at least called (managed my expectation).” Let people know where you are and how you are doing so they won’t be surprised when you don’t meet their expectation.

3. If you want people to be amazed at your work, exceed their expectations.

If you want to bring the WOW factor to your work, you can’t just do what’s in your job description. You’ve got to do more than they expect. Do what you are supposed to do, but get it done early or come in under budget or get an ROI on the investment that is above what they were expecting.