Managing Expectations

Posted by: Kristen

We often hear about the importance of managing the expectations of others. The degree of difference between what we say may happen and what really happens can affect us in multiple ways. We have all experienced the joy that comes from getting something much better than expected, as well as the disappointment that comes from expecting something good but getting something bad instead.

As we aim to succeed in life and in business, we try to avoid disappointing others; in relationships it helps to preserve personal credibility and in the stock market it influences an organization’s value. Indeed, there are entire industries devoted to predicting financial performance and the value of a business is often measured by comparing predicted outcomes to real ones. It is clear that what others perceive and expect to perceive has an impact on us, but what about the expectations we have of ourselves? How do we manage those and what happens if we fail to do so?

Last Friday we completed a course entitled “Understanding Top Management” taught by Prof. Dominic Houlder, though I think it should have been called “Understanding Everything.” The course had quite an effect on all of us, evidenced by the comments of my peers (e.g. “this is my most favorite course I’ve ever taken”), as well as the standing ovation and expressions of personal gratitude Prof. Houlder received at the end of it. The course taught us to critically evaluate four components of an organization: its frames (perspective), relationships, processes, and values, and how those impact the observable outcomes. The same process of deconstruction can also be applied to the individual and the consequences of one’s choices. In his final slides he challenged us to question how much of our identity, meaning, and self-actualization comes from our work and in doing so, challenged us to evaluate our own expectations of ourselves by examining those four components.

Because expectations impact credibility and value, when we fail to meet our expectations of ourselves we risk harming our confidence and sense of self-worth. The mismanagement of self-expectations is possibly what has led many of us to the Sloan program. At some point, we started to question whether where we were in our careers was really the best place for us to be. Although many of us are still unsure about what to expect following the Sloan, with its emphasis on self-awareness and critical thinking, I believe we can reasonably expect at the end, as Prof. Houlder put it, to “be yourself more, with skill.” That’s something I think I can manage.

While we’re on the topic of expectations – It’s not unreasonable to have some preconceptions about what an LBS professor might be like. Of course a great education, great work experience, consulting, etc., but click the link below to read an interview with Dominic Houlder – you may be surprised:


6 Responses to “Managing Expectations”

  1. avatar yen wong says:

    i am certainly impressed and surprised. Aren’t we fortunate enough to be taught by a distinguished professor who not only teaches understanding top management but values that are important for all of us to up hold in an ever demanding environment – it is all about frames, relationships, processes and values.

  2. avatar Perry Venugopal says:

    Fantastic blog entry – Kristen! You deserve to be the class rep just for fishing out this link on Prof. Houlder. I am now going to purchase this book…

    Congratulations and look forward to reading more of your entries.

  3. avatar Fred Cardinal says:

    Read your entry and the link under it.


  4. avatar Prasanth says:

    Kristen….your thought process is quite interesting….let me just add on my views…..when we say “self expectations”…..it automatically tries to insulate oneself from what others expect of you.

    However, does it really happen that way in the scheme of things?

    ……I would rather say that “self expectation” is “one’s personal expectation in consideration with self evaluation ….fortified by a smattering of what others expect of us….and our attempt to fulfil that space”.

    this has more meaning when one exhibits genuine concern to others and is prepared to concede ground……of course, not at the cost of the final objective

  5. avatar Prasanth says:

    By the way…. i forgot to add…and hence this repost

    The blog by Dominic Holder is just that………a Westerner trying to hold forth by quoting Buddhist scriptures selectively….his writings doesn’t do justice to business…and spirituality either.

    Just too bad for an “LBS Prof”

  6. avatar Jon Strauss says:

    Many thanks for this, fascinating.

    Amazon copy on it’s way. Happy to share.