Where Leaders Come to Think

Hope and Expectations


My wife, speaking to our children, offered this bit of wisdom –

“If you’re trying to force your hope on the family it’s no longer a “hope” but an expectation.”

Of course, in perfect husband form I published her comment on Facebook to a myriad of applause and questions. It did not take long for me to realize that what she was saying was critically true, and managing expectations is one of the largest challenges a leader faces.

The same philosophy can be overlaid on the entire scope of our leadership efforts in business and life. Because no matter what we are leading when a hope turns to an expectation – we all have some work to do.

Hope is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “To cherish a desire with anticipation”. Hope is the fuel that feeds the believer’s heart. We should have hope in a great future, hope that tomorrow will be better than today, hope that we will meet a certain level of success by the age of___(I will let you fill in the blank.)

Hope is good, natural, live-giving… I encourage my children and the people I serve to hope, and do it out loud.

But something happens when a “hope” turns to an “expectation.”

Expectation is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “basis for expecting: assurance”. Instead of “cherishing with desire”, now there is a new basis created that revolves around a right to have or assurance of something in the future. Certainly there are times when expectations are entirely appropriate.

Take, for example, these situations. If you do a job, you can expect to get paid. However, can you expect a tip? If you have a fantastic week at work, you can expect to be noticed. However, can you expect to be promoted? When you turn seventeen, you should expect a happy birthday. However, should you expect a car?

The problem with hope turning to expectation is that it opens to door to entitlements. I don’t believe entitlements are very healthy.

In business and life, there are zero guarantees. (Insert old axioms about death and taxes.) Each of us needs to increase our hopes and the efforts we put towards achieving them and stop turning those hopes to expectations. When we do this, we can become bitter fast and stop working towards the things that matter most.

How should we handle others people’s expectations of us?

I recommend dealing with them like my wife. (Honestly, caring – and to the point.)

I hear things like this often around the home – “Just because we love to see movies as a family doesn’t mean we will today or that you are “owed” a movie.”

She is skilled at offering the hard truths in love. When it comes to overcoming expectations and moving forward in hope, we could all learn from this bit of wisdom.

For example, I had hoped you would read this far my friends. However, I had no expectations that you would do so. Thank you!

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  1. pastorjeffcma

    This reminded me of one of my favorite maxims–“Unmet expectations become demands.”

  2. Gary Korisko
    Gary Korisko09-12-2012

    Amen, Mark. Especially on the entitlement part. You’re preaching to the choir there, but I love it.

    I’m currently hiring for some management positions down south and one on the west coast…and I was bending my wife’s ear about this very thing not one hour ago.

    It amazes me that people who are in need of a job – and have gone to our company web site to fill in a form to be considered for said job have such a “you come to me” attitude as if we owe them something. They’re almost demanding. Did I mention these are candidates who weren’t recruited, but came to us because they need work?

    You’re very welcome for me not having typed a swear word there, buddy.

    The wife and I beat the “no one owes you anything” drum pretty loudly at out our house, too. I’m glad to hear we’re not the only ones who still do.

    Great post, Mr. M

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