The Sharpening Stone – Expectancy, Not Expectation

You may be expecting this short video to be worth your while. What if it is? What if it isn’t? what practical difference does your expectation make in the content you hear or in my presentation of it? None, right? So why approach it with any expectation at all? What if, instead of coming with any particular expectation, you were to just be open to what is here, chew the meat and spit out the bones?

In my work with people over the years, I have come to the conclusion that expectations are at the heart of much of our conflict, misunderstanding, frustration, and relational fall-out. Allow me to explain. When I have this (hand up) expectation, and get this (hand below) reality, what fills this gap? Usually some variation on frustration, disappointment, or anger, right? So, where does the problem lie…with the reality or the expectation? Well, let’s ask this: what is the basis for the expectation? Is the other person even aware of the expectation? Think for a moment about how many expectations we all have that are simply the result of habit, wish fulfillment, or some personal opinion about how things “ought” to be. But, are others obligated in any way to meet our expectations? Not unless we have some agreement in place that clearly defines the expectation and they have committed to it. Apart from a mutually accepted agreement, what right do we have to expect anything of another person? And apart from such agreement, what purpose does the expectation serve? More often than not, it just becomes the source of anger, frustration, or disappointment.

So, what if, instead of coming to an encounter with unfounded expectations, we were to come with expectancy….an open, interested, engaged receptiveness to the reality that unfolds? What if, instead of unspoken and unfounded expectations, we work together to define what we want and are willing to commit to so that any expectation moving forward reflects that agreement and provides a reasonable basis for accountability? When we recognize that we have no right to expect anything of anyone without agreement, we engage with each other from a posture of genuine respect and eliminate most of the “noise” that comes from unfounded and often unspoken expectations. Clarity and accountability are the products of genuine dialogue. So, as we manage our direct reports, or engage with those whom we report to, let’s do the work of genuine dialogue about what we want from others and for ourselves. Let’s set and communicate clear goals, talk about how those goals will be met and how achievement will be assessed, and gain clear commitment to pursuit of those goals. And…let’s check our unfounded expectations at the door.

About the Author: Dixon Miller, Ph.D.

Dixon earned his Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology from Biola University and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Messiah College. In addition to being a licensed psychologist and board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dixon brings business leadership experience in ownership, governance, and management roles. He most recently served as CEO at Acadia, Inc., where he is also a long-standing member of the Board of Directors. He was a founder and Managing Partner of Behavioral Healthcare Consultants in Lancaster prior to joining the team at Acadia, and was previously the Director of Behavioral Medicine at Lancaster General Hospital. Dixon is highly skilled in psychological assessments, and brings a strong foundation in leadership development, organizational dynamics, cultural climate assessment, change management, employee engagement,, and performance/sports psychology.

The Sharpening Stone

The Sharpening Stone is a series of short videos from True Edge designed to sharpen leaders and their organizations.

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