How Expectations Determine Your Success

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How Expectations Determine Your Success

Let’s talk about expectations and goal achievement and let’s be honest it’s not the most attractive subject you know it’s not it’s not a sexy subject.  I have to say that when I’m working with leaders and I say now let’s look at goal achievement their eyes roll.  And if they didn’t think I’d notice, they reach for their favourite distraction.   

We all want to achieve goals, but taking the time to set them properly, well that’s another thing.  One of the reasons people think it’s a waste of time is because they can’t do Smart or OKR’s right.  It even if you’ve got smart down brilliantly or writing OKR’s.  There are other factors to keep in mind. 

And it those I’m going to cover here. 


An overlooked factor in goal achievement is expectations. Because the size of our expectation determines what we set as a goal. 

Let’s say my goal is to get a new car, and I’d like a Mercedes-Benz but what I expect is a Nissan then whilst we may set the goal as I want to own a Mercedes-Benz, I’ll end up owning a Nissan because what we want and what we expect are different.  

Equally if I want to build a great productive team but have an expectation that building this team is going to be hard workthen as I build the team it will be hard work. I’m not saying that in building a team some effort would not be involved, but because there is an expectation that it will be hard work then I’ll experience more hard work.   

We also put these expectations onto other people. So I can be setting a goal for a team member and I have an expectation about what they can achieve or I might have an expectation about how they will go about achieving it. And my expectations may not and probably aren’t the same as the team member.   Now if I share my expectations then any differences will become obvious.  But if I don’t, well you know where that’s going to lead. 


Setting The Pace 

One way expectations show up is in using the pacesetting style of leadership.  I can set the bar really high, and for some people this would be a delightful challenge, it would be motivatingit would fire them up. Yet for somebody else if the bar was that high they would think I can’t achieve that, it’s not possible, it’s unrealistic there’s no point even trying. And even worse it may have the knock-on effect of them being demotivated and thinking there’s not point even attempting any other goals.   

One of the thing about high achievers is that they set the bar high for themselves, they expect themselves to better what they could do before. Now this is great, and you also need to awareness of what’s happening around you.  I’ve said before that leadership is firstly learnt through osmosis, we observe others and think that’s what we should do.  So if you’re expecting great things of yourself and pushing the envelope constantly.  Your team will think that’s what they have to do.  And whilst you might like to see this sometimes, often leaders I talk with say that isn’t what they expect of their team all the time.  



Lockdown has been tough and you might be experiencing tiredness and fatigue.  Our ability to achieve goals at this stage isn’t the same as when we have loads of energy.  The difficulty here is that firstly we may still expect ourself to achieve the same thing.  Now we’re entering superhuman territory.   

Secondly, we may start to set out goals a lot smaller.  So we’re dumbing things down and shrinking. 

So where is the middle ground you may ask. 

Part of this is self-awareness.  Knowing you’re tired you can either extend the deadline or revisit the goal.  Lower the bar a little, not a lot.  When we don’t revisit and make fine-tuning corrections, then we keep at it, and at it, and we burn up our energy still shooting for the moon.  Then somewhat battered and bruised we set a new goal, but this has a bar too low.  


Win or Lose? 

A good question to ask when setting any goal is – Are you playing to win or not to lose?  

If it’s the former you’ll fine tune with the expectation that you’ll win.  It might take 5 moves instead of the 3 that you’d hoped but you’re still going to win.  

If you’re playing not to lose you’ll set your goal and expectations so that you can’t be disappointed, so there is no fine-tuning – and neither is there any meaningful feedback.  Over time this habit will see your results shrink and drop off.   


In summary, the checklist looks like this.  

What’s my goal – what do I want and then what is it I expect.  If there is a difference then I’ve not set a goal, I’ve set an aspiration.  My expectation is my intention. 

Am I playing to win or to lose? 

If I’m playing to win I should be picking up on feedback and making adjustments based upon keeping the desire.  Yes some tweaks and refinements might need to be made in the short term but the desired endpoint is still kept in mind. 

What expectations do I have of others and how am I communicating these, checking the validation with the other person.  The discrepancies are a great way of revealing bias. 

2021-04-30T11:16:24+00:00By |Growth, Leadership, Podcast|
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