The Art of Managing Expectations


Positive Leadership in Project Management


By Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow

New York, USA



A managerial and leadership skill area or capability that seems to require some attention is the ability to clearly establish expectations with people who have been given work assignments. I have spoken to hundreds of project managers and managers of project managers about the setting of expectations and have found that this particular part of the leader and manager role is either ignored or given very superficial attention. Leaders know that a positive, motivational, and inspiring attitude is essential for personal success, the success of the team, and the successful implementation of a project. Leadership is about creating change, taking risks, setting an example, and having the courage to keep trying when previous attempts did not work. Effective leaders also know that setting expectations very specifically and intentionally will assist in achieving organizational goal and/ or project objectives. Leadership is about clearly defining a direction, communicating that direction to teams and individuals, filling people with a sense of confidence during difficult times, taking the edge off in times of great stress, and providing followers with a sense of purpose and a belief that they can succeed in reaching their goals. Success also depends on the setting of goals, objectives, and expectations.

Leadership begins with a vision, a desired future state, and commitment to achieve that vision. Achieving the vision requires a set of clear expectations for the team as a whole and for each individual team member. Unfortunately, in many cases, expectations are set in a very informal and sometimes, negative manner. When a new leader is assigned to a team or organization, it is very common for some dialog to be initiated among several employee and managerial levels about the incoming leader and what to expect regarding leadership capability, style, experience, and working relationships. Much of this dialog is based on hearsay, rumors and unsubstantiated information. Assumptions are formed, judgments are made and plans for dealing with the new leader are often created in advance of any actual activity or contact with the new leader. These assumptions may lead to an uncomfortable environment for communication and could cause some serious issues in the areas of working relationships, morale and productivity. Alternatively, the newly assigned leader, upon some observation of the organization he or she is joining, may begin to make assumptions and prematurely set some expectations regarding organizational or specific individual performance without actually gathering information about behaviors and performance or conducting any formal discussions with other leaders or employees. This lack of dialog, open communication and setting of “spontaneous expectations” may lead to a serious breakdown in many performance areas and create conflict that could lead to some serious organizational disruption.

Truly effective leaders understand that setting expectations intentionally is one of the key factors associated with organizational success. By intentionally, I mean the leader schedules a specific session to discuss issues, concerns, visions, ideas, and ultimately expectations with an individual, a team, or representatives from business entities.

It is important to understand that expectations are different from goals and objectives.

Goals relate to vision, aspirations, and a desired state. Organizations establish goals such as becoming the consumer’s number one choice for products and services, becoming the leading distributor of a certain set of products, the leader in product quality.

Objectives are stepping stones to achieving goals.


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Editor’s note: This article is one in a series on Positive Leadership in Project Management by Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow, popular speaker and author of books on leadership in project management published by Wiley and IIL in the United States. Frank is widely known as the originator of the International Project Management Day, the annual celebrations and educational events conducted each November by PMI members, chapters and organizations around the world.

How to cite this article: Saladis, F. (2020). Positive Leadership in Project Management: The Art of Managing Expectations. PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/pmwj97-Sep2020-Saladis-managing-expectations-leadership-series-article.pdf



About the Author

Frank P. Saladis

New York, USA



 Frank P. Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow is a Consultant and Instructor / Facilitator within the project management profession and has over 35 years of experience in the IT, Telecom Installation and IT Project Management training environment. He is a senior consultant and trainer for the International Institute For Learning Inc. and has been involved in the development of several project management learning programs. Mr. Saladis has held the position of Project Manager for AT&T Business Communications Systems, National Project Manager for AT&T Solutions Information Technology Services and was a member of Cisco Systems Professional Services Project Management Advocacy Organization. His responsibilities included the development of Project Management Offices (PMO) and the development of internal training programs addressing project management skills and techniques.

He is a Project Management Professional and has been a featured presenter at the Project Management Institute ® Annual Symposiums, Project World, PMI World Congress, CMMA, and many PMI Chapter professional development programs. He is a past president of the PMI New York City Chapter and a Past-President of the PMI ® Assembly of Chapter Presidents. Mr. Saladis is a Co-Publisher of the internationally distributed newsletter for allPM.com, a project management information portal, and a contributor to the allPM.com project management website.

Mr. Saladis is the originator of International Project Management Day and has written numerous leadership and project management related articles. Mr. Saladis is also the author of the Project Management Workbook and PMP ® / CAPM ® Exam Study Guide that supplements Dr. Harold Kerzner’s textbook – Project Management, A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling?, 9th Edition published by John Wiley & Sons and the author of Positive Leadership in Project Management, published by IIL Publishing. He is a member of the International Executive Guild and the NRCC Business Advisory Council. He has also held the position of Vice President of Education for the Global Communications Technology Specific Interest Group of PMI ® and holds a Master’s Certificate in Commercial Project Management from the George Washington University. Mr. Saladis received the prestigious Lynn Stuckenbrook Person of the Year Award from the Project management Institute in 2006 for his contributions to the organization and to the practice of project management.  He can be contacted at saladispmp@msn.com

To view other works by Frank Saladis, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/frank-p-saladis/