The Sin of Low Expectations
I’m guessing that most of you understand “the Sin of Low Expectations” – that if you expect little from someone, you’ll get little back in response. I get that.
When dealing with people, my past staff, and others in my life, especially children, and especially now with my 4 grandchildren, I typically express high expectations and not low expectations – yet not impossibly high expectations – and then I offer encouragement and whatever resources and feedback seem appropriate, and then continued encouragement.
I understand that people have to want to accomplish something, have to believe that they can accomplish that thing, and need to understand “how to” get there to that thing. Sometimes I can help but other times it’s not in my wheelhouse, so to speak.
But the goal always needs to be reasonable – at least closer to possible than impossible.
Yet people with impossible goals need encouragement as well. And understanding when they cannot meet those goals. Because sometimes those goals are unrealistic. It’s the polar opposite of the sin of low expectations.
The Sin of High Expectations
I was reminded of all of this this past week, when my Kansas basketball team, from my alma mater, fell short of their goal of securing their 15th Conference Title, in a row. Last year’s 14th Title passed the previous record in men’s college basketball previously held by UCLA and their coach the legendary John Wooden of 13 consecutive Div-I regular season conference titles (1966–1979). You see – streaks like that don’t happen all of the time.
This reflection, through my Jayhawk tears and sadness, and some of the expectations express by some “fans” brought to mind the idea of Stretch Goals – and their abuse.
Stretch Goals can be good or bad, like most things.
I’ve had clients who were tasked with Stretch Goals that were motivating for them and their staffs – and others who collectively found them demotivating.
That’s the job of a leader – to express high expectations – and not low expectations – and yet not impossibly high expectations – and then to offer encouragement and whatever resources and feedback seem appropriate, and then continued encouragement.
Yes, it’s tricky.
Especially when impossible Stretch Goals are handed down from on high – in order to factor in to some other impossible goal associated with some Business Strategy – and some manager and their staff are saddled with someone else’s Impossible Dream.
It’s even worse when that Stretch Goal and its pursuit detracts from other Goals – achievable goals.
There is no easy answer for those who find themselves squeezed in a situation where they are given impossible stretch goals. They have to make the decision to fully pursue it at all costs, give lip service to its pursuit, or to push back with rationale as to why they won’t pursue the goal at all costs and damage other goals, and metrics.
That’s a situation affected by the relationships that a manager has with their management and stakeholders, their staff, and their prior track record plus many other variables.
As they say, “that’s why they get paid the big bucks.”
It’s Just College Basketball
Back to my fellow Jayhawk fans – especially those who had set their expectations for others – the team and coaches – check your expectations and their realism. Extending a record – such as what was at stake – is tough enough. It was never going to be a cakewalk.
Have high expectations – but offer encouragement and keep your discouragement to your self.
After all – it’s only a college sport. It’s not on the same level as war or peace. It’s merely a modern day distraction. Roll with the punches.
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