Every leader (and every person actually) maintains expectations. While typically aimed at employees, leadership expectations, for example, are applied to those who perform at high levels and they’re seen as high performers partly based on the perception that they’re meeting expectations. Those not performing well fail to meet those expectations and are called problems. It is the gap between results and expected outcomes that create the labels. The challenge is only on occasion, are expectations specifically stated. More often, they are not stated, nor written. In fact, most of the time they remain unspoken and focused on specific behavior that one’s own mom would or wouldn’t have accepted. In other words, expectations vary widely and can be tricky to manage. So how do you as a leader who wants to do, and develop, even better, employ rarely shared secrets of clarifying, crafting, and sharing expectations? Enter today’s Monday Moment in which those secrets await.
Secret 1: There is a Difference
In the development of a recent new webinar How to Get What You Expect™, we devoted the first section to an apparently little known fact. There is a vast difference between wants and expectations. We may want to win the lottery, some psychologists analogize, but we don’t really expect to win and therefore don’t buy a ticket. We may want an employee’s attitude to change, but we secretly expect our friend Eeyore to remain the same. What’s the harm in not knowing this difference? We take action only what we expect instead of what we want. Some state this is a key reason many people feel stuck. They want to lose weight, but don’t expect to. They want to be wealthy, but never expect the money to come through. They want to be happily married, but don’t expect the arrival of prince charming. Don’t prevent progress by failing to see the difference. Clarify the difference. Find the gap between what you WANT and what you actually expect. If a difference exists, close the gap. Either alter the expectations or change what you want. Without that alignment, a leader will continue to experience discontent in the disconnect.
Secret 2: Expectations Follow Beliefs
There are a number of self-worth based beliefs that can create the difference between what we want and what we expect. Is one good enough to get what she wants? Is one talented enough to receive the raise he wants? Is one strong enough to clarify boundaries one really wants with that bully employee? Expectations are based on what we believe is likely to happen. What we believe is likely is typically based on previous experience. Because we as humans are designed to stay safe, if the belief from past encounters is that what we know or do won’t work or will hurt, we will shy away from putting ourselves in that position again, thus preventing any real difference in results. We will brace for impact and prepare for safety when similar situations occur and thus expect, not something different, but more of the same, using the same actions and then leading ourselves to demonstrate the slang definition of insanity. Check your beliefs.
Secret 3: Courage is Required
Most leaders are not insane, but many do continue to do the same thing over and over, while saying they want different results. The trick is they don’t really expect different results, yet. In order to lead others differently, lead outcomes differently, and lead ourselves more effectively, courage is required. It takes courage to go for what one wants, but is afraid might not happen. It takes courage to visualize a result yet unseen and truly expect better or different things to come together. The average person will find it safer to stay the same, even get comfortable with circumstances they don’t like. The successful leader will dip their toe in the water of risk knowing that fears are usually based on bigger, more dastardly actions that frequently remain fiction. What if a leader expected a negative employee to begin to show small amounts of optimism? What if that leader reached out and had a more vulnerable conversation to model that behavior. Might it result in sharing a part of human emotion? Might it result in disappointment? GASP! Say it isn’t so! Changing expectations and aligning them with what the leader really wants takes clarity, consistency, and courage. What’s the worst that could happen? Likely nothing nearly as bad as what we tend to fear. Yet, in addition to these three realities, the real secret in crafting and reaching leadership expectations is in not overthinking them, not getting bogged down in fear, and allowing ourselves the permission to believe what we want is actually in the realm of possibility.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.