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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

The Power of Expectations

What drives one’s outlook on the glass being half full or half empty? Impressed or disappointed?

One dominant factor? Expectations

Think back to any life experience and I would venture to guess that it was not the OUTCOME that dictated your outlook, is was the expectations you had prior to the situation, and if they met that bar, exceeded it, or fell short.

Here’s some examples

Sky High Expectations: Disappointed Outlook

  • The dining experience at the hot new restaurant where your hopes were sky high. Your meal was very good, but you left with a so so feeling

  • The new hire brought in to make a big impact, with a long and storied resume. You work with them for a month and wonder if they are the real deal or all hype. People wonder if there’s more Charisma than substance?

Low or Moderate Expectations, Sky High Outlook

  • A stop at the local retail store for a gift, and you want to get in and get out. You encounter a friendly store associate that was not only helpful, but made you want to stay and linger, chat and explore. And return…

  • The new team member at work, put in a position with no real “logical” experience that said they would thrive. You end up being amazed at their ability to adapt, learn and assimilate into the team.

  • A move to a new city after you’ve lived in one place your entire life. You realized there is life outside of the home town…

A couple of applications for this principle….


  • Delighting customers is job #1. You do that by delivering, then exceeding customer expectations. Shaping the right customer expectation is critical, than work hard to over-deliver. Be careful about over-hyping your product and service if you can’t deliver the promise.

Business Leadership

  • Leaders set a vision, then provide a road map for what the future looks like. There is plenty of wisdom in the BHAG: Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals to stir the troops. People like to achieve great things……..however:

If expectations are a key driver in one’s mood, doesn’t it make sense to simply LOWER expectations to make it easier to exceed them, and thus improve the team’s Outlook?

There is certainly some logic here: Deliberately lowering expectations increase the likely hood that the team can have a more positive experience. Here’s my rule of thumb. DO IT. But only in your world OUTSIDE of business. The business world has too many people reaching for great heights. It is cut throat and too competitive to be intentionally lowering the bar. There is great logic in UPOD: Under Promise, Over deliver. It works great to establish trust and build a reputation. Personally, I believe there is too much up-side tied to setting very high expectations for yourself and your business. Falling short of high expectations is usually a better business result than exceeding a very low bar. Just manage your “outlook” on the tail end and fight being too hard on yourself if you fall short. And don’t do it with your customers, they are paying your bills.

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