What Do You Expect?

I travel a lot for work. Speaking events, conferences, consulting with churches and non-profits… it all keeps me on the road pretty frequently. Coming and going is just a part of our routine at the Catron house. For the most part, we roll with it but there is one little thing that trips us up every time I come back home…

My unmet expectations.

I expect to be greeted with great fanfare. I want to know that I was missed while I was gone.

Now, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this longing. It’s an indicator of that God-ordained part of me that wants to belong. However my desire to be celebrated every time I get home from a trip is a bit unrealistic giving that I travel nearly EVERY week! That’s quite an expectation to put on my poor unsuspecting husband who has been managing life while I’m gone, including our 17-year-old border collie who is extra high maintenance in his old age (bladder surgery, brain tumor, homemade chicken and vegetable food… need I say more?!)

My expectation to be celebrated (which is often quite subconscious) always gets me in trouble. It starts with a little annoyance. It could be that my husband is on the phone when he picks me up. So instead of getting a heartfelt greeting, I get a nod as he continues his conversation. It could be that he’s already eaten lunch and I’m starving (why in the world would he not have expected that I’d want to eat?). It could be that he’s running late and I have to wait on the curb for a few extra minutes.

Seriously, I sound like a diva, right?!   That’s the crazy thing… expectations have a way of creeping in and killing relationships if we’re not wise enough to be aware of them.

We all have expectations. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have them until they aren’t met. You have expectations of others and they have expectations of you.

Some expectations are known and clearly understand.

  • You take out the trash. I’ll do the laundry.
  • Obey the speed limit, you don’t get a ticket. Exceed the speed limit, you do.
  • I work for you. You pay me. I don’t work. You don’t pay.

At the surface level expectations are rather black and white but as you dig deeper those expectations become a little fuzzier. Of course I can expect to be paid if you are employing me but pretty soon I need a clearer understanding of just what my work is supposed to look like. Exactly what am I supposed to be doing? If we’re not very clear on that we’ll hit some challenges pretty quickly.

As leaders, we must assume the responsibility for clarifying expectations. Too many times I have assumed that my expectations were clear only to find myself frustrated and exasperated with a staff person who wasn’t meeting them. More often than not the problem lay with me making assumptions rather than purposefully clarifying my expectations.

Here are some things to consider:

1) Know what your expectations are for your team. What expectations do you have of their character and conduct? What expectations do you have for their work performance?

Sometimes as leaders we don’t slow down long enough to really evaluate our expectations. When we aren’t clear with ourselves about what we expect we’ll be exorbitantly frustrated when we collide with an unmet expectation.

2) Clarify your expectations with your team. They can’t meet your expectations if they don’t know what they are. Now, before you race over this I really want you to think about it. Just because you told your staff once doesn’t mean that they truly know and understand what is expected of them. Just because it’s written on a job description (that they haven’t referenced since they were hired) doesn’t mean that they have a clear understanding of your expectations.

3) Build systems that reinforce your expectations.

Develop staff values that reinforce the character and conduct that you expect.

Write thoughtful job descriptions that clearly articulate the expectations for the role.

Implement a performance review system that creates space for candid conversation about job performance.

4) Celebrate every time an expectation is met. Whenever a staff person meets and exceeds expectations, highlight their work and celebrate how they helped the organization achieve its mission.


Expectations aren’t bad. It’s unspoken expectations that get you in trouble.

Take the time to know your expectations and then work to clearly and consistently communicate them to your team. You’ll both be better for it!



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