If you’ve tracked with this blog over the years, or spent time with the Embracing Followership books, you’ll likely have noticed that there are several significant threads which continually arise as we explore following with excellence.
Relationship and Communication are two of these essential themes. If you flip through the Subject Index at the back of the book, and use the number of page references as one indicator of most significant ideas, do you know which topic comes in as next most important?
As pointed out in Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture, the fact that we have expectations for ourselves, expectations for our peers, expectations for our bosses/leaders, expectations for our organization, and that each of these (and even other constituencies) have their own set of expectations for us as well, means that entering into identifying expectations necessarily means stepping into a complex web of interpersonal dynamics.
These fundamental assumptions and motivators have immense impact on the nature of our relationships. As one author, Peter Scazzero, identifies, expectations are so potent and problematic because they are often: unconscious, unrealistic, unspoken, and/or un-agreed upon (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, p.191).
It’s all too common for us not to be aware of the reality and extent of our own expectations until they become violated or left unmet.
Our expectations may be of a sort that there is no realistic way that anyone can fulfill them (e.g. respond to every email within 30 minutes), and thus we have condemned ourselves to frustration, and condemned our colleagues to bear our disappointment…or anger…or rage.
Returning to the thread of communication, if we don’t ever voice our expectations, then we are playing against very poor odds that our colleagues will just happen to understand and fulfill them.
And even if we do voice them, if they are not understood and accepted by those around us, if others don’t take on the responsibility of meeting those expectations—deeming them appropriate, worthwhile, reasonable, relevant, etc.—then our expectations will persist as a divisive force within our dynamic.
So naturally, in order for expectations not to become a destructive force in your team or organization, they need to become: conscious, realistic, spoken, and agreed upon.
In an effort to promote forward movement along these lines, I’ve developed a new resource for personal reflection and group dialogue.
Surfacing Team Expectations is a simple platform to encourage expectations to become conscious and spoken, with the hope that they can then be made realistic and agreed upon (where appropriate).
I recommend that each participant—including the leader(s)—in a team, task force, working group, committee, department, or association spend time individually identifying and recording their assumptions for the group, the group’s members, and the group’s leader(s). This means surfacing expectations for the collective effort, as well as the individual contributors…and also for oneself—at least as a member, and perhaps as a leader as well.
Once the expectations are consciously identified by individual members, the group needs to give time to hearing these expectations (so they become spoken) and discussing them, determining which ones are reasonable (realistic) and committing to include certain ones in the collective dynamic (so they become agreed upon). Following up with forming (or revising) a Team Handbook, Team Charter, Team Covenant, or Operating Guidelines may be an important way to record these commitments.
Since some expectations may be mutually exclusive (e.g. I won’t respond to work emails during evenings/weekends vs. I expect all emails to be responded to within 30 minutes), there may need to be some negotiation or compromise. Other conversations related to Satisfying Communication and Giving Feedback may be necessary precursors.
The discussion of Surfacing Team Expectations fits well with the material in Chapters 9 & 16 of Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture, but also makes a good contribution to Study 11 of the companion volume, Embracing Followership: A Discussion Guide for Teams & Small Groups. This study is on the topic of ‘forgiveness’, which will almost certainly be an integral aspect of dealing with (unmet) expectations. Studies 10 (communication) & 7 (life as a group/body) can also be supplemented with this activity.
Since it is rare that anyone can easily identify all of their various expectations for a particular group or person, it can be useful to think back on previous experiences. What elements of prior group involvement were positive for you and would you like to be repeated within this present team? Which elements were negative and would you want to ensure are avoided within this current group? Both of these streams—wins and wounds—powerfully impact the expectations that we bring into our current circumstances.
Another point of reflection is to identify where you feel frustrated or disappointed in the present dynamic; these feelings may highlight expectations that have been violated or unmet. They also may point to areas where reconciliation or forgiveness will be necessary in order to continue moving forward (see again Study 11 in the Discussion Guide and Chapter 16 in the original book).
Even with all of this reflection, there will still be other avenues of expectation. The Achieving Satisfying Group Communication resource provides one other point of exploration, and future resources about receiving feedback, the elements of group meetings, and various evaluations (e.g. followership self-evaluation is helpful for acknowledging expectations we have for ourselves) will offer additional opportunities for determining where our expectations may be hiding.
The communication and cooperation surrounding expectations is sure to be an ongoing group process. Be an excellent follower by actively identifying your own expectations (personal development & self-awareness are key here), and commit to voicing them appropriately rather than holding others accountable for that which may be unconscious, unrealistic, unspoken, or un-agreed upon.
Be sure to check out the other free resources available from our Downloads page:
Free Sample Study (Study 8: “Honor Thy Colaborer”, with Facilitator’s Notes)
For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following and leading with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:
Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Feb 2016), and A Discussion Guide for Teams & Small Groups (Dec 2017).
Links to other posts on this site: Blog Post Index