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Leadership in Action: Expectations

leadership blog Apr 19, 2021

Leadership in Action: Expectations

Prepared by Ryan Warren
Instagram: @ryanwarren
Building Fences, Uniting Neighbors
The neighbor that lives behind us is getting quotes for the long stretch of fence that separates his property from ours.
He poked his head over the fence the other morning a la Wilson from Home Improvement and I did my best Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor impression. That’s when he told me he was getting the new fence planned out.
Ever built a fence? Ever paid for one? Ever done both? Fences are costly. Whether you choose to do one or the other or both.
Being a healthy leader means that you keep things like value as well as the associated expectations in clear view.
Here are a few ways I’ve experienced leaders modeling having healthy expectations of themselves and those they are responsible for. (All brought to you by my neighbor friend who recently retired and has an affection for property improvements.)
”I’ll pay for it.” How Leaders Can Display Ownership
“Ryan, have you ever built a fence before?”
“Ok, so how about this: I’ll pay for the entire thing if you’ll help with some of the labor and show me how we can do this.”
What’s the point? I think sometimes being able to step up to the opportunity you have to bring the value that you do is not always what we think it is. As I continue to have more and more opportunities to work with organizations and people, one of the things I do right away is to make sure I know very clearly where I can make an impact and help things grow.
Now, whether or not that is welcomed - totally out of my control. Let’s look at the neighborly exchange and flip it on its head for a moment.
What if I were to have said, no, you build it and I’ll pay for it.
Neither of those things are happening. A) I don’t want to spend the money on a fence that is still standing straight and B) He doesn’t know how.
This is where we meet in the amazing opportunity of expectation and delivery. To put it simply, we’re both agreeing to do our part.
Imagine what organizations could look like if each person delivered on what they said they were going to do. Fancy, right? It’s not a dream, it’s entirely possible because what I do know, is that the conversation my neighbor and I had about the fence happens every day in communities and in business. It’s up to us to step up and as we make agreements, that we deliver on those.
Paying for something far exceeds just writing the check. That’s part of it sure. But if you aren’t writing the check and can still show up and deliver, it’s worth it for us to do just that.
How Disappointment Happens
Promise. Expectation. Fulfillment.
That’s the goal right? What happens when there’s a giant chasm between the expectation and fulfillment? It’s one word: disappointment.
As leaders we have the unique opportunity to deliver on the promises we make. And sure, you may not be flat out saying that you promise to do something, but here’s the deal, you don’t have to.
Positions of leadership, and let me be clear, do not operate with the same guidelines and leniencies that other positions do.
Forget our titles. People don’t often care. Can we deliver? Can we build that bridge from what we say we are going to do and what we actually do.
When there becomes a space, that enlarges and pushes expectation and fulfillment further and further, it directly impacts the trust we have on our teams.
The nice thing is that building trust is quite simple. Tell the truth. That’s the quickest way to build trust.
When I was working in the Front Office at Deloitte University, Jim Quigley shared this story:
I met recently with Rene Heoft Graafland, the CFO of Heineken, an important relationship client for us. With the global new partner meeting in front of me, I asked Rene for any advice he would recommend I give to new member firm partners. After some reflection, he said, “Make sure you tell them not to overpromise.” He said that most professional services firms can’t resist promising the world, creating expectations that can’t be met, and then disappointing the clients. And then in finishing, as we walked through the century old headquarters, he turned to me and added, “and then have them overdeliver.”
Get The Expectations Right
Everyone benefits from clear expectations.
We might not like all the time what those are, sure. Yet, having them nonetheless is a very helpful thing to have as a part of our teams.
Whether disappointment is happening because there’s a gap between promise and fulfillment OR there’s delight because expectations have been exceeded, there is one thing we have to get right first regardless: getting the expectations right.
Everyone benefits from clear expectations. And, as leaders we have the opportunity first and foremost to do the research, assess what’s actually needed, assemble the right resources, and say the right thank yous, and then deliver on our part. It’s all a part of being a leader. And we can do it. We can show up fully for those that are looking for us to deliver.
One Post, One Board, One Nail At A Time
We’re going to get a new fence. That’s the reality. My neighbor is going to pay for it and I am going to help build it. The expectations have been set. We’ve agreed to the terms. We have the resources in place. We have a plan and we have each other.
Having a plan and agreement is part of it.
Now we deliver.
He delivers the purchase, and we work together to deliver the result.
Just because we have the expectation and agreement doesn’t mean the fence is built. We will do that. One part at a time. Together.
This is teamwork. This is expectations becoming reality.
And, I think he’ll be delighted to see his new fence every time he throws the whiffle ball we hit onto his property back over to us.
Let’s Connect
I like hearing from and joining in with other leaders who have a view on expectations and delivering we say we are going to. If you’re curious about furthering this topic with me, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me [email protected] or send me a direct message on Instagram @ryanwarren - and, if chatting over a construction project is more your style, I’ll let you know when we get started building the fence. 😀

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