Expectations – Part 1

My colleague and friend Paul Knudstrup of Midwest Consulting Group, has provided the following post that is a nice “follow-on” to my own March 1 post on relationships. As our guest blogger, he provides a different twist on the topic, below:

What do you “expect” of your key relationships – those employees, co-workers, boss, spouse, family in your life? Do you expect those relationships to be relatively positive most of the time? Do you expect your employees to perform well on a consistent basis? And do they perform well? Do you expect your boss to keep you in the loop, communicate well and thoughtfully, and give you opportunities to grow, and help you in your career? Does that happen? If you can honestly say that you have these kind of high expectations and these key people actuallly do meet those expectations, then please comment on this blog. We all want to know how to have that happen.

Or do you expect your employees to be lazy, unengaged in their work, and generally perform poorly? And they do. Do you expect your boss to be a jerk . . . and he or she is a jerk? If so, then why do you think that has happened?

I submit that in both cases, you are getting the result you expect. It is the expectation – a belief held that has not yet become reality – that at least partially causes the expectation to become reality. Think about the expectations you have for the people around you. Are your expectations positive, results-oriented, with a positive focus? Then the odds improve that the successful outcome will become true.

Most of us know the basic story of professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.” The play and two movies (1938 Pygmalion and 1964`s My Fair Lady) illustrate how expectations can become reality. Rooted in mythology, the relevance and basic truth of the self-fulfilling prophecy has been proven again and again.

Here`s what happens: An expectation that is not necessarily tue becomes true when people act upon that expectation. So, our expectations, either positive or negative, influence the outcome. For instance, the Great Depression of the 1930`s saw bank “runs” as depositors demanded their money in cash until all the onhand cash was gone and the bank forced to close. People believed that if they didn`t take out their money now, they might not be able to later. And they were right. Their negative expectation created the reality they feared.

Hundreds of experiments conducted in the last 40 years prove the reality of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Students who are expected to succeed do better than those who are viewed as average. Employees who are identified as having “high potential” will perform better than those who are viewed as being average performers.

What do you think?

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.