Don’t Expect Everyone to Meet Your Expectations

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Management intrinsically sets expectations – both of managers and those they lead. When expectations are present, there is the expectation that they will be met.

This is easier said than done. If you manage others with the rigid expectation that they will meet them, there is going to be disappointment.

The expectations of others need to include the potential that others will fall short – for example:

1. Falling short following policy
2. Character weaknesses
3. Not accepting supervision
4. Avoidance
5. Ethical missteps
6. Personal problems affecting workplace behavior

When you begin to accept the potential that others will fall short of expectations, you allow yourself to stay focused on the more important stuff. Mistakes or falling short is a part of human nature. Personalizing the actions of others is a sure fire way to stress, or most importantly, sidetrack your eye from the big picture.

Keeping Your Eye on the Big Picture
The way you work through a failed expectation is to realize that drift may occur.

1. Identify the program or policy drift
2. Acknowledge the self – correction with others
3. Examine your own motivations and expectations
4. Adjust your attitude with others- accept failures, insist on corrective behaviors in others
5. Provide supports, clarify your expectation

Finally, set future expectations in a way they are incrementally attainable with your team. Insure potential roadblocks are removed. The failed expectation could be your roadblock not your staff member’s. Keep an open mind that you may be setting the wrong or unclear expectation that is not matched with their current realities.

Organizational Definition of Codependency

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A corrosive threat to building teams is “Codependency.” A term used prominently within the addictions field, the behavior has wider meanings within leading individuals and teams. The basic idea of codependency in organizations is it defeats responsibility, initiative and the health of operations.

Codependency as “under functioning”
When team members are codependent, there is an imbalance in responsibility between members. Norms develop where doing the minimum is silently permitted. Unhealthy alliances develop, and fear of confronting the inequity or dysfunction in the team stifles the group.

Codependency as incompetence
Those that want to appear capable (but lack substance) hide behind a cloak of saying what is necessary or saying what they think others want to hear.

Codependence is fake acceptance
A distorted sense of acceptance occurs when the objective is agreed upon, but the words (commitment) does not match the results. The leader wants good results and accepts the stated intentions, that do not correspond to an individual team member’s actual behavior.

Codependence as rational lies
The use of rational lies (aka rationalization), itself is a form of team and individual betrayal. To avoid accountability a team member uses rationalization and excuses to avoid personal responsibility.

All these organizational definitions of codependency can be corrosive to objectives and the mission. Rampant codependency can significantly lead to human resource costs and deceased morale.

The Benefits of Storytelling

Storytelling sometimes gets a bad rap. It implies that to tell someone a story, means that a half-truth or diversion is being communicated.

In reality, the power of a story has many practical benefits and can bridge gaps in knowledge where information or professional literature cannot. Humans often connect around common themes, and themes can be in many circumstances communicated well using a well formed story. Traditions, and human beings for centuries if not more, have used the story as a way to connect, learn, or communicate important things. Cave drawings? They were forms of getting messages to others.

20130408-182132.jpg. Photo by: Brian E. Dick

Reasons a Story Works:
1. Stories communicate meanings to others in non-direct ways.
2. We can reach others better through information that makes us think.
3. Stories often represent common ground, traditions, and ways of holding our interest.
4. Learning is faster.

The reality is: Often others will not listen if material is not seen to pertain to them. Often a message is avoided when it seems too confrontational, unpleasant, or disinteresting. When someone tells a story that communicates a message, it has a higher likelihood of reaching the listener, because they are more open to the information and can decide what they will make of it.

A personal story
“Last evening, as I was putting my daughter to bed, she was upset about the idea of having to go to bed. This is not necessarily uncommon. Instantly however, I decided to use a short family story that helped her connect with one of her personal interests. With what seemed to be a neutral story, opened up influence, and created more conversation. As some time passed, she was ready for bed.”. Whether you are young or old, stories and the use of narrative appears to be a universal approach to connect with others, and motivate others.

Too many people feel talked to, rather than talked with. Using narrative is an important way to build influence, open minds, build rapport, and communicate tough topics in ways that can be received in better ways.

When was the last time you used a story to engage your audience? What would happen to your message, your sales pitch, or your team that you managed if you told a relevant story that connects with the ideas you are trying to communicate? Chances are, others would consider the message more, especially if they connect with many of the underlying ideas.

Does Your Personal Investment Inspire You?

“If it (whatever it may be) isn’t inspiring you, what is the purpose of your investment in it?”

This is the question that we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis. It is very easy to fall into the trap of what we think we should do compared to what we would prefer to do.

Reasons Why We Fail to Look at What Inspires Us
1. A change appears to require too much effort.
2. We are worried about what people might think
3. Avoidance
4. The gravity pull is too great.
5. We are in survival mode.

Too often, do we not settle for what we have rather than evaluating whether we are really happy? The “co-dependence distortion” can tell us that any change may not matter or we fear that a change to something more inspiring is not something we deserve or can even consider.

Evaluate Whether You are Inspired
Here’s three questions you can use to evaluate whether what you are doing is inspiring and meaningful:

– do you feel excited about it everyday, does it captivate you?

– do you feel your activity enhances your enjoyment of other critical relationships?

– Are you lagging or contributing?

You’re the one that has to live with the experience. Why not make it something that inspires you. (Photo by Brian Dick)


Problem Solving: Your Key Strategic Advantage

In today’s society problems move quickly, and there are many choices that need to be made – often quickly. Building a brand, product, or providing a service is not only about the quality and the relationship, but it is also about the value and outcome or experience derived from the user. An important individual and organizational skill is how problems and dilemmas are solved, along with the outcomes achieved.


Different Types of Problem Solving:
Problem solving is a combined integration of the experiencing, thinking and behaving aspect of our activity. Rather than look at the psychological theory, it might be more helpful to look at the practical approaches to problem solving.

1.) Look at the ways that have worked before. Over time, we may have drifted away from workable practices, and drifted from tried and true ways. When considering a problem, consider ways that have worked before. Adapt the new solution along the same lines.

2.) Consider ways that have not been tried.

3.) What are the alternatives…look for “exceptions” that might provide clues to solving the dilemma differently. “This product works, except________when this occurs.”

4.) What can be removed from the situation? Often times, we only consider solving the problem with the current variables. What would happen if we removed a variable. That variable might be the barrier keeping the solution obscured.

5.) What could be added? Would it create a different outcome? Remember that adding indiscriminately might add to the problem.

These are not exhaustive, but starting points to pull apart the problem into manageable elements. What might seem an exercise in Algebra, it is really not. The adage of “thinking out of the box” really is a limit to true problem solving because it doesn’t specify an approach, only a mindset. Try these techniques on your next organizational problem or interpersonal problem.

The Obstacle of ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking

A part of the human condition is that we are all mistake capable. No one is really perfect, although it is healthy to strive for the best, and improve our results. How we go about that is often driven by the way we look at problems, and how we view “things” and our “relationships”


The biggest obstacle often is ourselves. Humans have a tendency of seeking that things will always work out smoothly, and naturally, and we attempt to avoid pain and discomfort. That is how we’re wired. A problem arises when we are attempting to solve problems. Sometimes we develop an “either-or” mentality and miss the larger picture. We develop all or nothing thinking, there is no middle ground.

“A project team is trying to meet a deadline. Time is critical, and the deadline is looming. The senior manager seeks that the team approach the problem in a particular way, but gives the team little authority to look at alternatives to solving the problem. The problem solution has already been given, but the ‘how’ to do it, has not been determined. It would be easy for the team to adopt one polarized approach to meet the expectation. In their haste, they get a result, but failed to look at alternatives. The senior manager has scripted the team to limited options, and an all or nothing attitude develops, and key alternatives that might bring better results are missed.”

Sometimes the pursuit for the solution, and the will to demand a solution obscures one’s ability to consider options, a lot of them. When we look at things or relationships in dichotomous categories we basically shove everything else off to the side. We miss important options, ideas, and most of all straight jacket ourselves or team.

Individuals with life problems adopt the same “all or nothing” filter – which in the end keeps them from looking at all aspects that could bring potential solutions. It’s global thinking, but the global part means that everything is considered in the same way. Often times it is better to think in terms of possibilities rather than hard core givens.

Ways of avoiding the “all or nothing” mindset:
1. Frame problems as likely having many “approximate” not perfect alternatives.
2. Learn to evaluate all your alternatives, finding evidence for and against each one.
3. Understand that the world isn’t always the same.
4. Performance is about progress and moving forward, not exact perfection.

All or nothing thinking is an obstacle, but it is also very changeable. As long as you’re willing to consider that things in the world are not always perfect, you can consider that there are likely many explanations to problems you face on an individual, team or organizational level.

The Pitfalls of Creating Dependence in Your Team

There is a difference between helping and creating dependence…In your team.

Helping implies getting someone to a different level so they can support themselves on their own two feet.

Creating dependence implies not letting others in your team soar on their own.


Some teams are run by leaders that only know how to create dependence in their teams. What appears to be helping, in the long run is merely control. Having control of a team squelches their best efforts to succeed. It is a recipe to failure, but the secondary gain is with the person creating all the dependency in the team. Creating dependency in others is like telling your team not to perform. Creating dependence in the team, takes the following traits:

1. The team can’t move because the leader requires them not to think. Instead they are given the directives what to do.
2. The leader has reached the limit of their skill. Their insecurity is such a problem that controlling and creating dependence is the only way they can keep from losing control.
3. The leader is so disengaged and their unit is drifting.
4. Creating dependence in their team members feels good to the one in charge, and gives them a false sense of self.
5. Creating dependence hides the leader’s ineptness.

Creating dependence in others we work with looks like helping, but it is only a projection of the leader’s weakness, and lack of capacity. It is a unit killer.

The effects on the team are enormous. Skepticism, under-functioning, and second-guessing becomes common place. If they don’t collude with the co-dependence, then it is seen as non-compliance. The biggest issue is the loss in capacity, initiative and creativity. What could be a healthy and developing business unit, ends up being a mediocre unit.

Creating dependence in others is not helping, and it’s purpose is usually to meet the needs of the person creating the dependence in others.

  • Indicators that there is a culture of dependence in your organization:
  • 1. People are leaving
    2. Attitude or productivity problems
    3. Staff is not following policy
    4. Dishonesty
    5. Entitlement mentality in staff
    6. Gross disconnection with the values and cross company goals
    7. Frustration, lack of vision

    Helping rather than creating dependence implies that the manager is guiding rather than controlling their team. It also implies that everyone is responsible for the results and is accountable at the same time. It is about getting there, and not about one person trying to meet their needs at the expense of others or the organization.

    In what ways do you see dependency creeping into the culture of your organization?

    Do you help and get out of the way, or create a dependency where others see you as the center –

    Giving and Getting – Team Dynamics

    A pervasive dynamic in the workplace and with teams is the concept of “getting or giving”.

    Getting: Is the outcome of what can I get from the organization. What’s in it for me.

    Giving: What talents and abilities do I bring to the organization? What do I give to receive?

    Teams and groups of employees often fail because:
    1. There is really not a team. It is a utilitarian view: What do ‘I’ get if ‘I’ do this, or that…
    2. Everyone on the team is not held accountable using the same rules or expectations.
    3. Oversight, or management is too afraid to confront inconsistencies.

    The Getters tend to participate in teams where the above dynamics are present. They continue to get, but fly under the radar or escape reasonable scrutiny for the results. I have seen this dynamic present since MBA business school. It is a part of the human condition.

    The Givers are the silent producers, rarely complaining, but producing the results. After a while, the Getters rely on the Givers, and the team eventually suffers. It can be a very frustrating experience for the Givers in the organization, but more importantly, it can render the leadership more vulnerable and in a position where they have enabled the Getters – making it harder to address.

    Teams will always have both types of members. The job of the leader or manager is to address the situation more immediately so as to avoid the vulnerabilities it produces in the team. The following steps may prove helpful:

    1. Approach all members with the same expectations. Set appropriate limits when it becomes apparent that some members are under-functioning at the expense of others.

    2. Be honest, avoid unholy alliances with one team member or members over others. Avoiding mis-steps by a deviant member will not make the problem go away. Addressing it honestly upfront, is the best strategy.

    3. If you have policies and expectations, use them. As a leader your job is to get ahead of the problem, not wait until it manifests into something more difficult to solve later on. Team members who are Getters, will not give up their behavior until it is directly addressed. Remember the team has a purpose, and it is not to give an advantage of one member over the organizational objective.

    Can you identify the dynamic of Getting over Giving in your organization?