Should we expect promises to be broken?

Should we hold politicians to their campaign promises?


In his Globe and Mail column this morning, Toronto City Hall reporter Marcus Gee addresses this question. (

Gee reports on Toronto Mayor John Tory’s reversal of promise regarding the increase of TTC fares. He acknowledges that promising no fare hike was foolish. He questions whether anyone believed that to begin with. And he recognizes that “it is unfair to hold politicians to hold every one of their promises”, as things can change and some promises have to be jettisoned. But this was not one of those items. Tory knew the state of the transit situation, it was a major platform of his campaign. Now, in the midst of promising free rides for those under 12 years of age, he declares the need for a 10 cent fare hike.

So, should we hold politicians to their promises? Gee concludes: “If we accept that politicians are always going to go back on what they promise, it makes evaluating their competing platforms impossible. Worse, it makes voters doubt everything they say.”

We may be powerless in holding politicians, or anyone for that matter, to their promises. But we must acknowledge that credibility and integrity fly out the window when promises are broken. What is the point of saying you will do something if you have no intention of following through? In marketing and retail this is blatant false advertising. To excuse it in areas like politics or personal interactions is to render expectations irrelevant. This empties any relationship of the very foundation of trust.

We may be jaded from past experience, and believe no politician can be trusted. Who would blame you? But the old adage still stands the test of time: Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

Are you setting yourself up to destroy trust by making promises you cannot keep?

What promises have you made that you may need to revise?

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

“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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Do our expectations affect the results? The surprising research findings.

The question sounds absurd: Can people’s expectations alter what we can do physically? Specifically, can people’s expectations change whether a blind person can see?

On a recent edition of the podcast “This American Life”, Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller, hosts of the new program “Invisibilia”, revealed the results of their research into the subject and those questions. (

The episode is titled “Batman”, not because it has anything to do with the comic crime fighter, but because the person they investigate mimics a bat’s use of sonar to “see” where he is going.  Batman in this case study is Daniel Kish, blind from childhood. He had his eyeballs removed due to cancer, so his new ones are prosthetic. He has no hope of vision. Or does he?

What Kish does is use clicks with his tongue as a way of understanding what is around him. This is called echolocation. The tongue clicks bounce off of things in his environment, resulting in a sonic representation of what’s around him. I recommend you listen to the podcast. His abilities will blow your mind.

So what does this have to do with expectations? Well, let me back up to their initial interview with research psychologist Bob Rosenthal. He had a lab full of ordinary rats collected for experimentation. He arbitrarily marked some rats as super intelligent, and some as incredibly stupid. Then he watched to see how the treatment each was given affected the results of the tests they were used in. Listen to what Alix Spiegel says:

“So what Bob figured out was that the expectations that the experimenters carried in their heads subtly changed the way that the experimenters touched the rats, and that changed the way that the rats behaved. So when the experimenters thought that the rats were really smart, they felt more warmly towards the rats and so they touched them more gently.”

She then relates studies showing the effect on human subjects:

Research has shown that a teacher’s expectations can raise or lower a student’s IQ score, that a mother’s expectations influences the drinking behavior of her middle schooler, that military trainers’ expectations can literally make a soldier run faster or slower. So my question was, how far does this go?

And this led them to Daniel Kish. His experience has not only enabled him to do what most of us would consider is impossible for the blind (i.e., riding a bike! In traffic!) It has resulted in him teaching young children to be independent. His story of teaching a ten-year old boy to climb a sixty foot tree is worth the whole show.

Do our expectations influence how we act? How we expect others to act?

Have a listen to the podcast and think about it. Then share your feedback with me here at

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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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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Target Canada closing – the result of mismanaged expectations.

Are you over the shock yet?

You know what I’m talking about. Target Canada announced early this morning they were closing all 133 Canadian locations and pulling out – lock, stock and barrel. After less than two years! What seemed a sure thing has quickly crumbled to the point of being what is described as “an epic failure.” It is sure to be one that will be studied in marketing and merchandising courses for years to come.target1

So, what happened? I’m not qualified to give an expert view from either the marketing or consumer side, but as far as expectations go, it is a fairly simple analysis. They did not meet expectations. Not those of the company, nor those of the consumer. They quite simply did not manage the expectations set before them.

Those interviewed outside stores today repeated the critique that the service and satisfaction that was delivered in U.S. stores, and experienced in cross-border shopping, never materialized. Experts in the field of consumer merchandising noted that their price point consistently paled beside WalMart’s. And their stores were frequently lacking in products, with empty shelves promising to be refilled, but left vacant for weeks. The customers just moved on to the stores that had the stuff they were looking for.

Perhaps the most damning comment came from an insider who sought to remain anonymous in the interview he gave today. He said that Target, who largely took over Zellers stores, were given free access to that company’s marketing figures. But they ignored them, thinking they were irrelevant to what they were about to do. This was seen as both arrogant and foolish. It ultimately led to expectations that were entirely unrealistic for bringing Target into a whole different culture. And this is the result.

I said it in my last blogpost, and I repeat it now with this stark example before us:

Knowing this material in itself is never enough. We still have to apply it!

I will let those experts in the Canadian economy and the store scene speak with their great knowledge and facts and figures. It will be necessary analysis. But at the end of the day, the real reason is there for us to see. They mismanaged their expectations, and those of their customers. What a shame.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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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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It’s not enough to understand expectations, we’ve got to manage them!

Are you managing the expectations in your life?

Stay on courseI find it rewarding to speak and teach on the subject of expectations. But nothing compares with hearing how the application of that understanding has helped someone in their life. They now have a grip on the importance of managing their expectations.

This morning I spoke with a woman who attended a seminar and bought the book over a year ago. She was excited to share how it has helped her. She was so enthusiastic, I wanted to interview her on the spot. I hope to do a video interview with her in the days to come, but her testimonial of the benefits of the book was immensely gratifying.

Her words continue to ring in my ears: “Your book has revolutionized the way I manage my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t ask the question of myself and others: What do we expect here? I’ve learned to manage my expectations.”

When I wrote “What do you expect?” it was first and foremost for my own benefit. It helped to solidify in my own thought and understanding what I had been working on for many years. By putting this in book form, I was able to appreciate not only the big picture of expectations, but also the subtle nuances needed to be grasped in many situations. This in turn has enabled me to help more people through speaking, teaching, training and consulting using this material.

The bottom line remains the same:  Knowing this material in itself is never enough. We still have to apply it!

Are you applying that simple question? If so,  how is it helping you?  I’d love to hear your story, as well.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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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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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A new year, and new expectations.

With the changing of the years comes the inevitable list of predictions. Have you seen them?

Newspapers, like the Globe and Mail, list “What to expect in 2015”. In their lead editorial of January 1, the editors Googled “what to expect in 2015” and listed their results under the headings Most Depressing, Neutral and Most Hopeful. A nice summary, if slightly overwhelming. In their Life and Arts section, they warned of making New Year’s resolutions that were “sweeping and vague”, saying such attempts at goal-setting attempts were “destined to fail from the get-go.” Their Health advisor then listed 15 tips to have the healthiest of years.

I’m not big on predictions. I don’t make them, and though I read them, I don’t truly expect them to come to pass as stated. Nevertheless, this is a season when we may be thinking of our own expectations for the coming year:

  • A new job?
  • A special trip?
  • An occasion that will be a highlight of the year to come?
  • Finally doing some job around the home we have been putting off, or splurging on a project or purchase we have waited for?

What expectations are you thinking about for 2015?   Are they specific, or vague?  How important are they to you for the year to come?

If you feel comfortable sharing one, please post a comment and let us know what you expect in your life for 2015.

Next time: Back to the process of managing our expectations together. We look at the three options we have when we come together over our expectations.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2015

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Are you vocalizing what you expect?

Lauren 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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