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    Book Excerpt

    Chapter 15: The Expectations Test.

    Effective leaders avoid unmet expectations.

    Dave and Josh met playing football at Golden State. They just clicked. When Josh’s dad invited his son Josh to join Diamond Technology, a small start-up company, after college, he immediately thought of Dave as the right person to join him in this venture. Initially, Dave loved his new job leading the manufacturing arm of the business.

    But gradually something changed dramatically. He now felt he was being held to an impossible standard. Lately he had experienced an ava­lanche of criticism from both the company owners and from many of the other employees he was overseeing. He realized he was not a gifted administrator. His gifts were in public relations and in helping the team leaders with people problems. But the expectations his employers and fellow employees had for him as a leader really went beyond what was ever stated in his job description, he thought.

    As a matter of fact, these expectations were not in writing. His fellow employees and others in management just assumed he knew about them. Now that he failed to meet their expectations, tensions flared. The owners felt he was disorganized and lazy because he missed meetings and came unprepared. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, he just didn’t love meetings. He would much rather be involved in “manage­ment by walking around,” dealing with people issues rather than sitting in boring meetings.

    He felt ready to give up. Yet he knew he couldn’t. He did not want to be a quitter. But the unmet expectations that he was experiencing were just overwhelming. He didn’t want to fail as a leader; he wanted to grow as a leader. What steps could he take to make this all work?

    Dave was faced with expectations that others had of him that were not being met. And Dave was also not experiencing what he had expected when he took this job. Welcome to the world of unmet expectations!

    So many families, marriages, churches, ministries, and businesses are not fulfilling their God-given destiny because of experiencing the disap­pointment of unmet expectations. The issue of unmet expectations chokes the life from us—a wife that expected Prince Charming and got a man who hasn’t grown up yet, the hard-working employee who was overlooked for a promotion, a leader who expects God to do something a certain way and it didn’t work out that way at all.

    When our expectations are not met, we can become deeply disappointed.

    The key Scripture this entire biblical concept is built upon is Hebrews 12:15: “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” When our expectations are not met, we can become deeply disappointed. If those unmet expectations take root and plant a root of bitterness deep in our hearts, it will choke out our dreams and vision and the blessings that God wants to give us.

    Great Expectations

    As a leader, you must gain awareness of your internal desires and moti­vations. These are your expectations. You have expectations of yourself. You have expectations of others. And there are expectations that others have of you. If you do not clearly disclose your desires and preferences to those around you, you will resent it when they fail to meet those needs or fail to understand you. Even if you say what you expect of others, they may not understand. Often the result is miscommunication prob­lems along with frustrating mixed signals. Both parties start to resent each other. That’s where the root of bitterness starts to grow.

    Do you realize that the plan of the enemy is to keep you from ful­filling your destiny? Why do great leaders sometimes fall into horrible sin and make terrible decisions? In many cases, it is directly related to unmet expectations. This whole process does not happen overnight, but through small steps, not unlike the proverbial frog in the kettle of water who doesn’t know he is being boiled.

    Unmet expectations often begin with disappointment and continue on with anger, hurt, helplessness, and low self-esteem.

    Unmet expectations often begin with disappointment and continue on with anger, hurt, helplessness, and low self-esteem. Sometimes we have expectations of what we felt God would do for us, and it didn’t happen. Or we may have expectation of ourselves that we haven’t ful­filled, and we feel disappointed. We may be disappointed with our spouse, our church, our children, or another Christian leader. The list goes on and on.

    If we forgive and release and apply the grace of God to our lives, we will receive grace from the Lord and find steps to freedom. We can go back to the first stage of unmet expectations that is filled with disap­pointment and forgive ourselves and others. We can release those unmet expectations and then walk in freedom.

    But if we do not forgive, we will soon begin experiencing discontent­ment. The grass begins looking greener on the other side of the fence. We become negative. We stop seeing the positive in our lives and in the lives of others. When we enter into negativity, we are no longer sure we can trust people again, because of someone who has hurt us. Or we may find it much harder to trust God than in the past. Perhaps a prayer was not answered in the way we had thought it should be answered.

    One of the main hindrances to effective leadership happens when our wants and needs—our expectations—are threatened.

    Proverbs 13:12 describes the pain of unfulfilled expectations, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . .” Like the writer of this proverb, many leaders experience the pain of longing for something that forever seems out of reach. We know the pain of hard work toward a goal that is never actualized. We thought we expressed our needs and expectations, but they were ignored, dismissed, or outright defied. It is in those times that the heart feels sick. The difference between our assumptions and theirs leaves us with unmet expectations, and it starts to affect the way we relate to others. One of the main hindrances to effective leadership happens when our wants and needs—our expectations—are threatened.

    The Rough Road of Unmet Expectations

    Every leader goes through the rough road of unmet expectations. Sometimes it seems as if they may not get repaired anytime soon, as this author realized:

    The road by my house was in bad condition after a rough winter. Every day I dodged      potholes on the way to work. So I was relieved to see a construction crew working on the road one morning. Later, on my way home, I noticed no improvement. But where the construction crew had been working stood a new, bright-yellow sign with the words ‘Rough Road.’1

    As we travel through life, it may seem as if there is just a “rough road” sign posted and the repairs have not been made. Life is filled with rough spots, and we will continue to face disappointments, but we don’t have to be devastated when our expectations aren’t met. What we need to learn is that having expectations is normal and not the problem. How we deal with unmet expectations is what can make or break our relationships.

    If we instead take our hearts, broken in disappointment, to God, He will restore us and give us the ability to love unconditionally the ones we perceived have failed us. When we realize we must live for God alone, seeking only His approval, it will be amazing to see how our relationships will succeed in a way that they did not while we had expectations of them.

    I am a promoter. I love to help others fulfill their dreams, but some­times I have given others unmet expectations by telling them the potential I see in them without laying out the requirements they will need to see that vision fulfilled. As leaders, we must be careful of what we speak. If we speak vision over people’s lives concerning what we see in them, and it does not come to pass in the time frame they expected, or they do not know how to go about fulfilling the dream, they will be hurt and disap­pointed. We need to be careful that we do not set in motion expectations that cannot be met, which can lead to disappointment.

    In the Church and in business, we often hope the people we serve with will continue to serve with us for a long time. When people leave, it can be a test for us. Once while I was in Hawaii I sat with a pastor and his wife; she blurted out, “I hate last suppers!”

    “What is a last supper?” I asked.

    “When people in the church take us out for a meal and then tell us why they are leaving our church!” she said. This pastor, like most, had the expectation that his members would be loyal and stay and support the church, but it does not always work out that way. People will leave. If the pastor’s faith remains in Christ, he can face those disappointments and won’t be devastated when his expectations are not met. We must guard our hearts from taking an offense when personal expectations are not met. We must forgive others because the Lord has forgiven us. Forgiveness and speaking blessing to those who have hurt or disappointed us will cause us to pass this test. And remember, forgiving does not mean that what they did was right. It was probably wrong. But forgiveness releases both us and the one who has hurt us to experience the Lord’s intervention in our lives.

    We must respond to the unmet expectations of life in ways that create solutions by finding ways to heal the wounds of letdowns and injustices. Ask the Lord to give you the desire and willingness to release your expec­tations of yourself and others, to not insist on your own way, and to com­promise and to adjust. Ask the Lord to soften your heart!

    The unmet expectations between Dave and Josh and the other company owners and employees had led to a growing sense of failure, frustration, and even depression on Dave’s part. He was concerned he might get fired. He was determined not to allow the gap between his own expectations and the expectations of others at Diamond Technologies to become too great. They were already experiencing increasing tension. Since administration was not his strength, Dave realized that he must be honest and open with both the owners and his fellow employees about what he was experiencing. He forgave his fellow employees in his heart, received grace from God, and his attitude began to change. He knew that he had to find out what was really expected of him and build a team that would allow others’ strengths to shine where he was weak. He made a commitment that he would work through his feelings of failure and the awkward staff meetings. He appealed to the owners, and they began for the first time to write job descriptions for employees. He found a trusted mentor who had experienced much of what he was presently experiencing ten years prior, and this friend gave him clear steps to take. He would not bail out and give up. Instead, he would do what leaders do in time of crisis—he would lead his department through the rough road.

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