Expectations are the golden nugget of leadership. What does this mean exactly? It means that how we show up as leaders is largely based on what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of others.
Here's a story to illustrate this. Last night I was walking into the house with my dog after his romp outside. I held onto his collar because I wanted to wipe his muddy feet. As I turned to grab the towel, I inadvertently stepped on my dog's paw (don't worry, he's fine). Of course, he yelped, as I am sure it did not feel the greatest. While I was trying to back up and rearrange my feet, I took another misstep and landed on his other paw. Now I bet he was thinking, "What is wrong with her, and why does she keep stepping on me?" He yelped again. At this point, I tried to detangle my feet from his feet, lost my balance, and down I went, hitting my head on the door. Don't worry, I am fine. Maybe a little concussed, but fine. Nothing is broken (at least I don't think so), and the dog happily recovered from all of the craziness.
Here is where I'm going with this. When I was lying on the entryway floor, my husband came running down and started loudly asking me what was wrong with the dog. Full disclosure – I am pretty sure he was yelling. I mean, it sounded like it since I had the little birdies floating around my head from the whack against the door. What I EXPECTED was that he would come down and say, "Are you hurt, is everything okay" with a look of concern and worry on his face. Nope. That's not what happened. He was trying to figure out what happened, being the analytical, data-driven person he is. On the other hand, I am very relationship-driven and will almost always defer to how people are feeling. We talked about it later and cleared the air. Welcome to 27 years of marriage.
What does this have to do with leadership and expectations? Everything. I listen to people all day, every day, talk about how the other person/team/leader did this or didn't do that. And you know what? This is coming from a set of expectations that we develop over time, based on our past experiences, our beliefs, and how we are wired. We expect others to do/react to things the way that we do. When they don't, we get frustrated with them. It's human nature.
Here's my point. If you are a business owner/leader, slow down a little bit and examine your expectations. Even better, talk about your expectations with your team. Invite them to share their expectations with you. Create shared expectations. Bottom line – talk about it. And then talk about it again in a few weeks. Keep the lines of communication open. Collaborate. Communicate. It is the most important thing that we can do in our business.
If you feel like you are stuck at a crossroads with your leadership role, your business, and/or your team, let's talk about how to navigate expectations differently so you can get even better results.