Are you vocalizing what you expect?

speak outLauren had come to her final day on the job, and she was fidgeting in her chair. “Should I tell her,” she wondered. She was sitting in her bosses’ office, being given the standard exit interview for summer interns at Reid-Davis. Maureen O’Connell was assistant to the chief purchasing agent, and Lauren’s boss for the summer. As a matter of courtesy, she asked if there was anything else she wanted to share as she finished her time with the company.

“Yes, well, the summer’s been great working here. So thanks. But, well, to tell the truth, I thought we might have worked more closely together.”

There, she’d said it. Now what?

The comment caught Maureen off guard, but she regrouped quickly and replied, “Yes, well I’m sorry for that. However, that was not the plan we laid out for you when we brought you here in May. And frankly, I’m wondering why you never shared that expectation with me? Especially if that was important to you.”

Lauren felt sheepish now. “Yeah, I guess I can’t expect you to read my mind, can I? It’s just that you did say I have great potential. And I saw how you worked with Ella. I really want to be doing what you are doing after I graduate. I guess I just thought you might want to work more with me, that’s all.”

Sound familiar?

Maureen only finds out about Lauren’s expectations after the window of opportunity has past. Why? Very simply, it was not shared when it could have made a difference. This is what we call “vocalizing”, speaking out clearly and understandably what we expect. As a result, the opportunity is missed, an employee leaves disappointed and a supervisor is frustrated. “If only she had shared that with me earlier.”

What expectations are you not vocalizing? What would happen if you shared the expectation you are holding back on sharing?

Next time: Why we don’t vocalize our expectations.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press –


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They expected what?!

The headline of the Hamilton Spectator this past Tuesday just about leaped off the page at me: Hamilton family left corpse upstairs for six months expecting resurrection. (

empty coffinReally?! If I wasn’t awake before I read that, I sure was now.

Why would they expect the corpse of their dead relative to be able to come back to life?  The article begins:

Peter Wald’s family truly believed he would rise from the dead. They believed it because they had prayed for it, every single day, while his corpse lay rotting for six months in an upstairs bedroom of their Hamilton home.

Wald’s widow said their expectation was based on their faith. She had placed his body in a bedroom and sealed the door as well as any vents, hoping to keep the odour in. She and the family fervently prayed for six months. When they defaulted on their mortgage an eviction notice brought the sheriff to their door. This led to the discovery of the body and a court case.

Mrs. Wald said their faith was still strong, as witnessed in them packing his clothes when they were evicted, just in case the resurrection was yet to come.

The judge did not take issue with their faith, only with the health and well-being of the family. They were free to expect a resurrection. They were not free to keep a corpse on the premises.

Why did they expect this? Mrs. Wald says she still believes strongly in resurrection, and says there have been many “documented” cases of it around the world. Her faith was not shaken by the legal consequences of her actions. We saw in our last post that we expect things for one of three reasons: our past experience, our desire for it to happen, or the authority of others. This case probably rests on the second and third reason. Her belief that resurrections happened in the Bible, and supposedly some modern occurrences, led to the application to her own situations.

Was Mrs. Wald’s expectation one with a firm basis? Why or why not? Based on what we have been looking at, how would you have counseled her to manage that expectation?

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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Analyzing my expectations means determining how realistic they are.

microscope-lab-worklIn my last blog, we looked at the first action in managing expectations, which was realizing what they are. This is done by asking the question: What do I (or what do we) expect? It is a necessary beginning, but it really only sets the stage for what comes next; analyzing if our expectations are realistic.

The question I am asked the most often is: “How do I know if my expectations are realistic?” The fact of the matter is that no one but you can make that analysis. In my book, What do you expect?, I have explained the three areas where most of our expectations come from. These are our past, including our experiences, family traditions, ethnic customs and so on. Second, they come from our desires, the way we want things to work out. And thirdly, they come from listening to what others say, especially those we trust or those who have an influence in our lives.

While one or more of these is usually at the root of what we expect, none of them can guarantee we will get what we expect. Why is that? Simply put, it is because there is no agreement given by anyone to us which gives us that guarantee. Now we realize that even if there is a guarantee, the expectation still may not come to pass. The friend who promises to meet us at noon may be late, the parcel may not be delivered that day, our car may not be repaired at the time promised. Stuff happens. But when we are analyzing how realistic our expectations are, we trust there is a far greater chance of it happening if there is an agreement behind the expectations.

Take a few minutes and analyze something you are expecting. Ask the question, “Why am I expecting this?” Is it because it has always happened that way, or because that’s what I hope will happen? Or because someone said it might happen?  How realistic is your expectation?

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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December 1, 2014 · 9:23 am

Managing our expectations begins with realizing what they are.


I compare realizing our expectations to wearing eyeglasses. Most of the time I’m unaware I’m wearing my glasses. (Unless they are as cloudy and in need of cleaning as they are right now!) They are simply the way I see the world. It’s the same with my expectations. I may not be aware of them, but they are the filter through which I watch my world.

In order to manage our expectations, we need to realize exactly what they are.  How do we do that?

  • We realize our expectations by taking the time to think carefully about what it is we want.
  • We realize our expectations by using anger as our “expectation alarm”, a signal that tells us we are upset about something. We need to stop and recognize what we are angry about and exactly what we are not getting that we want.
  • We realize our expectations by talking the matter out with someone who can help us get to the root of what those expectations are. This might be the person we are expecting something from. It might be a friend who knows us well. It may be a counsellor who is skilled at helping us uncover what it is we really want.
  • We realize our expectations by being honest – with ourselves and with others – about what it is we truly desire.

While we may assume realizing our expectations is a simple and obvious process, this may not be the case. It can be difficult to be that specific and open about what we want. To be so specific may mean we admit something about ourselves we want to keep private. To be so open may be embarrassing to us.

In practice, it is not always easy to fulfill this first action of our process. But if we are to manage our expectations in a healthy and effective way, it is a very necessary step to take.

Question: What am I currently expecting that is affecting a relationship I am in? How specific can I be about that expectation? Am I willing to share that expectation with this other person?

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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Why do we need a process to handle expectations?

This past week Liberal leader Justin Trudeau suspended two MP’s from his party’s caucus as a result of accusations from two NDP members. The result has been a war of words between Trudeau and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair over how this affair is being handled. In the Globe and Mail article, Trudeau suspends two MPs over ‘personal misconduct’ allegations, the reporters write:

How the investigation will proceed is unclear. Ms. Foote sent the case to House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer because she wanted a neutral third party to look into it and because Parliament has no rules for dealing with accusations from one MP against another. (

This is an admission that no process exists for dealing with the current situation.

Now, to some, process is a dirty word. I have faced many in my years of work and ministry who objected to following a process. At a meeting meant to bring about reconciliation one person argued, “Process shmocess, what about relationships?” I do not disagree over the need to honour relationships; that was the very purpose of the meeting. But at the expense of following process? Is that helpful?

You see, process is everywhere. It’s really just a word we use for getting things done in an orderly and effective way. We use process every day in our cooking, our banking, our hospitals, our courts, our sports, our schools, our businesses, our traffic, and so on. It is not a matter of needing a process, it is a matter of understanding the process and agreeing on the process we will use.

So, when I am asked why we need a process to handle our expectations, I’m happy to point out you probably use one already, but do not realize it. Problems arise when we don’t know our process. We tend to circumvent it, taking short-cuts, or missing steps that could help us or others. By not having an agreed upon process for dealing with the accusations on Parliament Hill, both parties are claiming a moral imperative and saying they have acted correctly. Unfortunately, it is a stalemate. Why? Because there is no agreed upon process by which to judge their actions.

In my book, What do you expect?, I give this simple process for handling expectations:

WDYE-process-diagram 1

Using this process has helped many clarify their expectations and manage them in ways they had not previously been able to achieve. In my next four posts we will look at each of these four steps in the process.

Follow along and try this process.  It may help you manage your expectations as well.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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“How safe do we expect our workplaces to be?”

In the wake of the scandal involving former CBC Radio personality Jian Ghomeshi and the allegations against two MPs in the House of Commons, individuals are openly sharing their stories of inappropriate actions they have faced in the workplace. Perhaps you have a story of your own. Some of these stories are of inappropriate sexual or physical contact, while others relate to mistreatment such as bullying or personal cruelty.

It brings us to the question, what type of work environment should we expect?

removing ghomeshi

Workers at CBC removing Ghomeshi’s poster.

When a potential intern from Western University is advised not to apply at Q because of prior treatment of a female student, we need to question that environment. When 6 staffers of that program are gathering together to lodge a complaint, we need to question the environment. When an intern at Parliament is told this is no place for women and is told it is a “boys club”, we need to question that environment.

While nowhere close to the examples listed above, I do want to mention my first encounter with this as a summer student in my teens. I worked in an art department in a large organization, getting some exposure to help me prepare for a career in graphic arts. It did not take long to recognize some oddities in the relationships there, especially between the boss and one worker. That employee chose to make life miserable for the rest of the staff, but he was free to carry on. I inadvertently caught him stealing from the department, and in my naiveté thought exposing him would end his reign of terror. Silly me! The result was me being let go (thankfully, I did find another department to work in), while he carried on his wicked ways. The other staff felt sorry for me, but they obviously understood that changing the culture there was simply not going to happen. They continued to turn a blind eye to protect their jobs.

What did I expect? I expected fair treatment. That certainly didn’t happen. We usually expect a safe environment where we are not threatened, not emotionally or physically abused, and certainly not put in a position of having to leave.   Some workplaces have written codes of conduct, which we sign up for and expect to see applied. Whether they are enforced is another matter. From the many stories I am hearing online or on talk radio, it seems easier to have a formal plan, yet some find a way to still play their game.

For those who say, “Well, you just have to speak up,” I remind you of my experience. While I agree that is everyone’s responsibility and would counsel it in the majority of cases, I do so recognizing it may get you ousted.

What type of work environment should we expect? Hopefully one of mutual accountability and respect. We are hearing that is not the case in some very public organizations. We are watching to see if that will change for the better.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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“Beware the professional expectations.”


You stand before the service desk at your local car repair: “Well, I’m afraid your freemus is shot. That’s going to be $599. Oh, and I recommend you also upgrade your framus.  Another $299.99.  And while you’re at it….”  You feel the blood drain from your face, and know the money is just about to drain from your bank account.  What’s worse, you feel obligated to get it done.  What to say?

Next stop is the dentist.  She reviews your updated x-rays, and spells it out in no uncertain terms: a whole mess of work, for a whole lot of bucks.  When you squirm and say you want to think about it, she looks at you incredulously.  How can you wait?  In your mind you know you’ve got braces coming for both kids and other obligations to meet, so it’s a decision to make.  But she is staring right through you.  What to say?

I could have used any example.  Your doctor, the real estate agent, your financial advisor, the car salesperson, etc.  I call this “the intimidation factor” – I am in the presence of a professional who expects me to follow their expert advice.  The trouble is, it’s going to cost me.  And I have a few more professionals who are going to be assessing my needs this week.  I’m not sure I can afford all of this.

I know I’m not alone in feeling intimidated by the experts and their expectations.  When I mention this in seminars or coaching, I hear many of you feel this way.  So what do we do?

Begin by expecting to feel intimidated. That’s okay, it’s simply a reaction to being faced by someone who knows more than we do about what they are talking about.  But intimidation does not equal authority.  They can simply recommend the action.  We have the power to say yes or no.

Don’t let expertise and expectation equal intimidation.  Take back the power you rightly have.  Politely say “thanks for your input, I’ll get back to you”.   Then, take a deep breath and move on.

Now, about that framus?  Will you get it fixed?

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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