The Importance of Managing Expectations

The one thing I've noticed about golf? It's all expectations.

Take this morning.

At my hotel I'm over-hearing a couple of CEOs talking about getting to this course here at Pebble Beach.

From the sounds of things, they're both pretty experienced golfers. I don't know if that means they're good golfers, but judging from their chat about where they've played and how often they've played, they've played a lot.

But one of them saying he's not in the best shape today... fighting a nasty cold, and still not the best of some surgery he had. I didn't get the surgery details.

But I did get enough out of the conversation to conclude that whoever this guy is teaming up with on the links behind me, that guy had better keep his expectations low.

I don't know how the hurting CEO played, but I do know he prepared everyone for the worst.

All he has to do is pleasantly surprise them on the upside.

Of course, this is a tournament and about a lot more than expectations.

But it is also about pride, and if you can keep a lousy day in perspective, it's not a total loss.

It's all part of the game.

And who knows that better than CEOs? They're constantly trying to manage expectations. If they can just beat the Wall Street estimate or prepare folks for a really lousy quarter and then just deliver a lousy one, they're OK.

Candidates do it too.

Mike Huckabee wasn't supposed to do at all well on Super Tuesday... picks up nearly a half dozen states and suddenly he looks pretty good.

Not so Mitt Romney. He was supposed to win California. And he didn't. Never mind he did very well last night. Expectations were loftier.

In golf as in politics as in life, it's not how you do but whether you do better than people thought you'd do.

It's why Hillary Clinton looks human only taking half the delegates up for grabs yesterday.

And why Obama looks like superman precisely because he did.

Moral of the story?

Nothing profound... just that it pays to talk a bad game, and deliver just a slightly a better one.

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