Big Expectations (2)

April 10, 2017

I want to suggest a model that will help make a difference in any and every relationship. You will be able to locate on it exactly where you are in any particular relationship. You will be able to see how you got to where you are in that relationship as well as see how to change the dynamics of that relationship and bring stability to it.

expectations part two


To manage expectations well we begin with recognizing three essential characteristics of expectations.


Someone has concluded that 80 % of our expectations are assumed
– never really expressed.

Consider for a moment one of your relationships. How many expectations have you actually expressed and discussed? You see – most are assumed.

During a week long summer conference a few years ago a young lady asked, one afternoon, if we could have a talk. She had been married for several years, long enough to accumulate a list of complaints against her husband. When I asked her if she had ever expressed these to her husband, her quick reply was; “Oh, he knows alright.” In a later conversation with her husband it became apparent that many of the criticisms were a surprise. She was sure he knew, but she had never clearly expressed them to him.

When my wife and I arrived at a church for a Bible conference we were met by a pastor who was heart-broken, dejected and a little angry. He had just resigned a day earlier. It was the fall-out from his recent annual review by the church board at which time his wife had been strongly criticized. What hurt most was the fact that they had never once expressed any of their expectations of his wife when he was hired. Now, in his review, he was hit hard. “It just isn’t fair,” he said. And it isn’t! You can’t complain about unfulfilled expectations that have never been expressed.

Interest magazine (July/August 1994) reported on a Lutheran bishop in North Dakota who sent out to his parishioners a list of 112 action verbs and asked them to circle the ones they felt were most important for a leader to be doing.

He received 332 returns.

Some verbs usually associated with leadership didn’t make the top ten: administration (12th), teach (23rd), lead (24th). What they wanted spiritual leaders to do was to pray (5th), love (4th), inspire (3rd), encourage (2nd) and listen (1st).

You may not agree with another person’s expectations, but you do need to understand what they expect. Don’t guess-so, know-so! Ask and listen! Give the person the opportunity to express. On the other hand, you have expectations. Don’t withhold them. Don’t be silent. Express them.

When it comes to expressing expectations, it is most helpful to discuss one category at a time. An open-ended question like, “What are your expectations?” is a non-starter. Identify a single category and focus on it alone.

Here are some suggested categories in five major relationships. Remember, you want to work on the ones which are appropriate, one at a time.

A. Husband/Wife Expectations

1. Time together

4. Money management

2. Home responsibilities

5. Sexual relationship

3. Prayer and Bible devotions together

6. Parenting

B. Parent/Child Expectations

1. Allowances

5. Use of car/telephone

2. Home chores

6. Homework

3. Television/Leisure time/Sports activities

7. Dating/Curfew

4. Church attendance/Devotions/Music

8. Clothing/Dress

C. Elders/Pastoral Staff Expectations

1. Office time/Schedule

8. Gender issues

2. Appropriate dress standards

9. Community time

3. Prayer partnership

10.Vacation/Leisure time

4. Attendance at meetings

11.Continuing education

5. Salary

12.Social activities

6. Expenses

13.Integrity issues

7. Spouse’s responsibility

14. Mentoring/Review

D. Leadership/Congregation Expectations

1. What do you understand to be the expectations members of your church have of you?

2. What are the specific expectation you have of individual believers who come to associate with your church?

E. Employer/Employee/Colleague etc.

1. Time

5. Confidentiality

2. Responsibilities: Workload/Social

6. Punctuality

3. Money

7. Dress

4. Education/Training/Mentoring

In his book, Lincoln on Leadership (p. 45), Donald Phillips quotes part of a letter written by the President to General Hooker relating a conversation they had together late in the civil war.

“What I now ask of you is military success…The government will support you to the utmost of its ability…I shall assist you, as far as I can…And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forth and give us victories.”

Phillips comments on the letter,

“Contemporary leaders can learn an important lesson from this letter. For here, in one bold stroke, Lincoln told Hooker exactly what he thought of him (both good and bad) and precisely what he expected. He offered support and assistance, he encouraged his general to take the initiative and do the right thing. Then Lincoln gave Hooker the letter so that he could take it with him and ponder their conversation more thoroughly. Here was Lincoln the leader at his best.”

The lesson: Express exactly what you expect!

Carson Pue, President of Arrow Leadership Ministries, in his book Mentoring Leaders (156-57) writes:

‘When we at Arrow desired to hire a personal assistant to the president, we created a very accurate role description for the position. However Mr. Jim Postlewaite, who was working with me at the time, asked me for a list of what I was looking for in an assistant beyond the actual tasks that needed to be accomplished (the feelings, emotions side of the search). After a few days I provided him a list of what I wanted in an executive assistant. I wanted someone who:

  • anticipates my next move

  • takes initiative

  • is loyal to me and Arrow

  • presents well on paper—both writing content and layout

  • makes a great first impression

  • is a problem solver

  • is confident

  • is at his best when I am at my worst

  • has an “up” attitude

  • gets along with the other team members

  • has traveled and understands hotels and flights, etc.

  • is secure when I am away from the office

  • can produce when given a task – job delegated, job done!

  • can make me look good

  • is an encouragement to me – encouraging words and prayer support

In the course of my ministry years, I have seen dozens of job descriptions. This is only the second one I have seen that even addresses the question of expectations. Most churches and businesses have difficulty providing such a list because the leadership or board members have never discussed them or can’t agree on them. It is simply not fair to bring a person to a position for which they have responsibility and not provide them with a list of exactly what’s expected.


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