Expectations

Gerwig 2014-01-06

Are you a sports addict? Do you watch ESPN non-stop? Attend live sporting events? Surf the webs for hours at a time keeping up with your favorite sports team? If so, join the crowd. You’re in good company. Men, women, and children around the world LOVE sports. We love to play sports and we love to watch sports. Yes, there are some of you who have never played sports and don’t care to watch sports, but I’m willing to bet that if you don’t personally love sports, you know someone who does. In fact, you may be married to that person.

Living and traveling abroad, I know, firsthand, how crazy people are about sports. In the Philippines it’s boxing, billiards, and basketball. In the US it’s football and baseball. Everywhere else in the world it’s soccer (or futbol). OK, some of you love rugby, or cricket, or gymnastics, or swimming, or “fill-in-the-blank.” But regardless, you have to admit, we’re a world of people who are crazy about sports.

And we have expectations of our favorite teams, don’t we? And our favorite players? You expect your team to win, or to play well, or both. You expect your favorite athlete to have a good game or match, every time. Right? You never allow them to have an “off day.” We expect them to perform at a high standard every time. Sometimes, if our team is behind, we even expect the miraculous from them. Come on now, it’s true isn’t it?

During the last few weeks, I’ve watched many bowl games. Why? Because I love US college football and the last few weeks have been bowl season. This time of year is highly anticipated by millions of college football fans. We watch our favorite teams. We eat tons of junk food and snacks. We watch 2 dozen bowl games (sometimes switching between 3 games being played at the same time!). And we expect our team to win. In order to get invited to a bowl game, you have to post a winning regular season record. But that’s not enough, we want more. We expect our teams to win their bowl game and the stars of our teams to perform well, maybe even heroically.

This year, I have two primary teams I’ve been pulling for in the bowl season, Clemson and Auburn. I’m a fan of these schools because I graduated from them. During the regular season I want them to win. And during the bowl season, I want them to win. I kinda even expect it. I expect them to play well, beat the other team and win. I expect the players to play well. If the other team plays well, I expect my team to play better.

While watching a bowl game many years ago I remember thinking how silly it was for me to put so much on the games’ outcome. Somehow my “happiness” was tied with the outcome of the game and I realized that I was expecting too much from my teams and their stars.

In college football, the players are generally 18-23 years old. Kids. Why did I expect so much from them? Why did I expect them to play perfectly or, at worst, better than the other team? Were my expectations realistic? Don’t kids make mistakes? Don’t adults.

Tomorrow night, Auburn will play in the National Championship. I hope they win. I’m pulling for them. But if they lose, I’ll be ok. You see, I’ve learned to manage my expectations. I’ve learned that I’m not putting my emotional health into the hands of 20 year-old kids. It’s not fair to them to put this kind of pressure on their shoulders. And it’s a sign of immaturity on my part if I “expect” my team to win every time. If I “expect” my favorite players to also have a great match, every time.

Thinking about sports, athletes, bowl games and the kids that play them caused me to reflect on expectations in general. I was reminded of how important it is to properly manage expectations. Ask yourself, do you expect too much of others on your team at work? In your family? Of yourself? Or too little?

World-class leaders understand the importance of managing expectations. Unrealistic expectations can easily lead to disappointment and even dysfunctional behavior at an individual or organizational level. The expectations you set for yourself and others should be challenging while, at the same time, realistic. World-class leaders know that managing expectations is a necessary component of a successful, healthy organization. Set goals? Yes. Have expectations? Yes. Work hard to achieve both? Yes. Make sure the expectations are realistic? Yes.

How about you? Are the expectations you have of yourself and others realistic? Do you expect too much? Too little? How can you better manage your expectations?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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