“So many expectations so little time.” This was the statement made to me by a participant on one of the leadership development programmes I ran recently. This got me thinking as to what exactly my fellow learner and leadership protagonist meant by this. Alas I was unable to follow up as this curious reflection as they wafted out of the facilitation space at the end of 3 hard days on the road.
Expectation is the world we build around us fitting mental schema’s to the patch work of people and events presented on a daily basis. I have come across many situations in both my erstwhile short consultant life as well as personal dalliances between family, friends and unsuspecting business contacts that have meant real life and the world within which I inhabit collide.
Anais Nin said “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are”, nothing is truer in leadership life; making the task in the noble art of leading people all the more fraught as well as opening the door to opportunity.
Expectation applied in the correct way can be a useful business tool. One that aids decision making and drives results. A colleague of mine sets her expectations by being clear on what she calls ‘intentions. Once intentions are set before individual or team conversations then she uses this tool and checks against her original expectations. “It’s very useful to have a base line to measure my rational and emotional responses when presented with day to day conversations and situations.”
Indeed...however the flip side of expectations can lead to missed opportunities, inferred outcomes that are figments of imagination and more seriously run pathways towards the horizon...conflict lying in wait.
Recently I facilitated a team meeting over 3 days, during the plenary debrief I set a review session of the days work to be run by volunteer delegates. I wasn’t sure at the time and had not thought about my expectations. As the session ran its course it became crystal clear that the erstwhile volunteers were doing and saying things I was not expecting. Normally clear headed and considered I launched into a tirade of explanation on why they should not be doing this. Of course when all was said and done I realised my expectations had created conflict and impeded the learning opportunities of the group let alone myself!
Going back to the opening statement regarding so many expectations I reflected that my inner voice for the want of a better word had taken over. Spending so much time talking with leaders to shape direction, support, guide and open possibilities my overall take away from this experience is sometimes I should remember to remember my own expectations as the first stepping stone towards a truly inspiring and deep learning opportunity for those around me. Otherwise I might miss out on something special in the real world.