DISCLAIMER: To avoid a few potential unmet expectations about this post, let me say that these are thoughts I have largely regarding interpersonal communication in leadership. While I hope all this translates beyond the context I put it in, this is not so much about expectations you have of the Lord or even those that you have of yourself. For either of those 2 categories, I would much rather direct you to Pastor Jonathan Martin’s blog and/or podcasts!
Us leaders, we can get really frustrated (quite frequently) when those on our teams, whom we love and have invested a great deal of time, energy, prayer and resource into, seem to be falling short on a regular basis. Maybe it’s in the same areas, maybe not. Maybe it’s the same people, maybe not. Maybe it’s just not a “good fit” for them. Maybe you are hitting some spiritual resistance. Maybe they need more discipline or accountability or maturity. Maybe.
But maybe YOU, leader, are the problem. Or at least, part of it.
Because in my experience (and in Scripture, I should add) a good leader is always self-reflecting and looking for the conspicuous plank before becoming consumed with the irritating speck. When I do that, take a look at what I could do differently to facilitate change or growth in someone, 1 of 2 things is more often than not the case for me:
1. Either the expectation given wasn’t clear or wasn’t clearly communicated in ways that he or she could receive it.
2. The expectation was unrealistic to begin with.
Either way, adjustment is required and must start with the leader.
When my husband, Nathan, and I were doing our pre-marital counseling 8+ years ago, our pastor at the time taught us the invaluable practice of repeating back to each other what we heard the other say. The point of the practice is to reveal discrepancies in what is actually being said versus what is being received. Doing this can be quite an enlightening experience! Even to this day we do this from time to time and it quickly clarifies the conversation. In leading people, we have to be sure that how & what we are communicating is actually computing the way we need it to! We ensure accuracy of the reception by speaking as plainly and directly as possible, by providing concrete examples, by giving written feedback and not relying solely on your verbal communication. We give plenty of room for dialogue and question asking. We define the “win” for them so they know what success looks like and how they know when they are moving toward it. We keep the expectation always in sight and revisit it from time to time.
But sometimes, no matter how clear a thing can be, it’s just not realistic. Clarity is no longer in question. It happens to all of us from time to time. We misjudge people’s abilities, underestimate the time & energy that is required to execute a particular assignment, or oversimplify the scope of a project. And in those times, we have to lead honestly enough to know when the disappointment or frustration we’re experiencing is of our own making.
Its never a fun thing to realize when you’ve set the bar too high or set it so ambiguously that you’re the only one who could see it. But remember that it’s certainly frustrating being the one trying to clear said bar and coming up short at every attempt. No one likes failing.
Do yourself and your team a favor by doing your part in limiting the potential for unmet expectations. For some of us that starts with committing not to create them in the first place!
Oh, and do me a favor and remind me of this post the next time you see me banging my head against the wall!