Expectations are funny things.
We set an outcome, or series of outcomes, in our mind and then expect those around us to meet or exceed them.
ex·pec·ta·tion - a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future
The past couple of weeks, I've been dealing with a set of expectations that became a roadblock. What was interesting was, the roadblock was not with my client. It was with my own mindset.
You see, I set an expectation that other members of the client's team would fulfill their agreed-upon commitments. And they missed. Not by a little. By a lot.
The miss triggered a mindset shift that flowed like this ...
ASTONISHMENT - "But, I thought we ALL agreed ..."
Yes. There were planning meetings. In the planning meeting, we all agreed on outcomes. My astonishment arrived a couple of days into the process when the first hints of a miss became apparent. Agreeing to and completing outcomes remained two different things.
FRUSTRATION - "Why are you letting ME down ..."
One of my favorite ways to describe frustration is:
Frustration arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of an individual's will or goal and is likely to increase when an intention or goal is denied or blocked.
Note the keywords "perceived resistance." What we perceive is a purely personal experience. When we perceive the individuals who committed to the outcome block us from accomplishing "x" we gravitate into frustration with a "what the hell ..?"
ANGER - "Now I'm PISSED OFF because ..."
There's an old equation I use when I teach professionalism:
Abandonment + Insecurity = ANGER
It's not uncommon for the individual who missed our expectation to do a couple of things. The first is to not talk to us because they don't realize they missed our expectations. Or, the second is to not talk to us because they know they missed our expectations and don't want to "deal with it." In either case, when combined with feeling abandoned and insecure about the outcome, we get pissed off.
CURIOSITY - "Where did the BREAKDOWN occur ..."
When we step back and look at the "expectation" through its proper lens, there's a reflective moment. Curiosity. When suddenly I reached that moment, I took a deep breath and changed the direction of flow from outward to inward.
It's easier to blame someone else's incompetence than to look in the mirror and ask, "What role did I play in this mess"? There was a zen-like moment. When I focused inward, my heart rate slowed, I breathed easier, and I had to ask a few tough questions of ME.
Were we clear in our conversations?
Was the outcome not in the skillset? And, if not, did we create an atmosphere where they could reveal that?
Did we create an understanding of the "what-why-when" this was important?
Did we define our risks and what the impact of a "miss" would be?
Did we go 'round-the-horn and listen to each person repeat what we agreed to?
Did we recap the commitments in a document and distribute it to everyone in the project?
When we saw the wheels coming off, did we STOP and have a candid conversation, or did we AVOID the conversations ASSUME we'd get back on track? (guess what we did!)
... and ...
Did I set my EXPECTATIONS improperly?
Well, in the end, the miss on MY expectations wasn't fatal to the business. The project(s) recovered, and the client is well on their way to a resounding success. We took evasive action and executed a Delta-12 maneuver by engaging a proper resource with the proper set of skills.
The rest will be resolved through an exercise in radical-candor. I expect that to go well.
If you want to learn more about expectations, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll find a time to chat!