Expectations. We all have them. When we see something clearly, we expect that others will also. When we see that something needs to be done, we expect others to understand.
They don’t. Well, I argue that we should assume that they don’t. When we have expectations that we have not described, we begin to assume that others actions in relation to that expectation are deliberate. Here’s an example. This is not an accurate or true story, but made up based on many different scenarios I have witnessed and been a part of. Here goes:
I might expect my business partner to know that our client is feeling not taken care of, I assume my business partner picked up on it like I did and will call them, I hope so anyways, because I have too much work to do to take care of it myself, after all, they are the account manager and it is their job description. So not only do I expect that my partner knows and is aware, I also expect them to take care of the situation.
One problem. They aren’t aware. They didn’t hear the subtle sentence in the meeting that was an alert to something the client is unhappy with. They were distracted thinking about their daughter’s surgery tomorrow. But I expect that they did, again, it’s their job. Then when they didn’t call the client, three days later I am managing a crisis with the client and managing the stress of maybe losing the client and all that goes with that. On top of it, I think that my partner was being deliberately lazy or avoidant which excalates the stress because I start to wonder if this will keep happening, maybe this is a sign of things to come.
The question is, who should take responsibility? How do we fix this and make it so that it doesn’t happen again? It’s easy to take the self righteous path and point fingers at the partner telling them that they should have been handling it, they should have noticed, they should have, they should have, they should have. But they didn’t. I did.
Rather than identifying my expectation and seeing that since I have the expectation, maybe I should take responsibility at least to communicate and clarify what I perceived. Maybe I should realize that just because I noticed, doesn’t mean others did. I should have communicated to my partner about my spidey-sense. I should have asked if they noticed. Maybe on this one, my partner wasn’t capable this week and needed my help, regardless of how much work I have to do. Maybe they need me to stay a few extra hours each day to get this clear.
This all becomes much easier as I train myself to recognize these expectations and also identify if it’s easier for me to just jump in and get it done either through communication and rallying the team or through doing it alone behind the scenes like a janitor.
I think this is the work we avoid. We don’t want to take the responsibility. We want others to see what we see and care like we care. We don’t want to have to sit down and have a long conversation about how to tackle a problem that we wish wasn’t there. We want others to step up and take care of it and make our lives easier. When we operate like this as a team or a community, it’s a downward spiral to destruction.
But I want to ask, what happens if we are constantly looking to take responsibility and identify our expectations, clearly describing them to our community and getting others enrolled in the mission? What happens when we do that at scale? What happens if we train on these things collectively? I think we fairly quickly and radically change the nature of society. I think we enhance our evolution and our technology. I think that we end up constantly pulling burdens off of each other while our clarity of vision for life gets wider and more detailed. I think our organizations get better, our relationships, our jobs, our spirituality…
I think if we all practice identifying when we are laying our expectations, our stories, on others and removing those with curiosity and asking the real questions. Is this fair? Did I share? Did I share well? Did they understand completely or do I need to work harder at my communication and my empathy? Can I just take care of this really quick and then communicate that I did and why?
I think if we all collectively are taking these steps we reverse the pattern for the downward spiral. We show our partners and romantic interests and clients, that not only do we care, we are brave and willing to do the emotional labor and do the hard part first, clearing the way and smoothing the road for others. In turn if we are really doing this well, they are hearing us and understanding us and being inspired to join in and reciprocate earnestly.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
I hope you have a wonderful day and this post inspires you to deeper quality in your work not just in what you produce, but HOW you produce it.
Peace and Love,