The effect of high expectations
I think about expectations a lot. Expectations that we have for ourselves and others, those that our parents had for us while we were young and that our friends, colleagues, and spouses have for us as adults. How do these expectations come about? What effect do high expectations have, versus low expectations? What if we have no idea what an important person in our life expects of us?
A recent article in The Atlantic discusses whether parents assisting kids with their homework actually helps kids in the long run. An informal study mentioned in the article found that the most successful children had parents who set high expectations, then stepped back and let the kids do the work to meet them. Clear communication of desired results from authority figures + room to breathe and figure out how to succeed = long-term achievement. I know that’s how it was for me when I was growing up.
These concepts apply at work too. It may seem kind to give people a break, accept their minimal effort, solve their problems for them. But what if, instead of being kind, you’re failing to push them to be the most excellent version of themselves?
Get it out there
This past week, I went to see one of my current favorite bands play a show. They had one opener, an indie/electronic duo that was heavy on the reverb and a little light on stage presence. Which is pretty much what I expect from openers, so no big surprise there.
About halfway through the set, though, I found myself really enjoying them. The music was just all right, but they had such energy and commitment to their performance. They were unpolished and occasionally awkward, but there they were onstage doing their thing, because who was going to stop them?
No one. And unlike so many of us, they didn’t stop themselves either. They put their imperfect, rough-edged art out there, and made it happen. Can’t help but respect that.
When I’m out for a run and I’m going up a tough hill, I often think to myself, ”Well, maybe I’ll cut this a couple miles short” or “I want to slow down, I can do a fast workout some other day.”
But then the hill levels out and the miles I thought about skipping seem doable again. Running fast becomes more comfortable. And I realize that what seemed impossible on a hill becomes easy on flat ground. But once I’ve decided to make a workout easier, my mind is made up and I rarely recommit to something more challenging.
So now I know better, and I don’t make any decisions when I’m on a hill.
All cruelty springs from weakness.
— Seneca (via wellsaidblog)
We’ve spent more time memorizing the capitals of Europe than we have examining the intricacies of human interaction.
— Crucial Confrontations (via po3ticlicense)
You know what they say about first impressions. And there’s no first impression quite like your first day at a new job. Meeting a bunch of new people that you’re going to spend the next few years sitting next to for most of your waking hours. Getting to know a manager who could single-handedly make your life at work awesome, or miserable, or just kind of meh. Figuring out some strange new systems and processes that will (hopefully) be second nature in six months.
So how do hiring managers make sure that new employees come away with a good first impression? There are many answers to that question, but the most important one is planning. Schedule those first few days down to the minute if you can.
Your plan won’t work out perfectly- their new computer won’t work or you’ll have to jump into a few emergency meetings. But these surprises should be part of the plan. Create a training program that doesn’t immediately require a computer, designate someone to step in and help when you get sidetracked, etc.
Why does this matter so much? Providing a lot of attention and care at the beginning helps new employees hit the ground running with confidence. They’ll learn quickly and start contributing with a minimal learning curve. The result is an appreciative, motivated team member who feels capable and wants to prove themselves. And that matters a lot.
The job of leadership today is not just to make money. It’s to make meaning.
— John Seely Brown (via rkfme)
Why Good Managers Are So Rare - There are severe consequences to putting the wrong people in management positions. Check out this list of the talents great managers possess to decide who makes the cut, and for a little self-reflection.
Use Your Brain to Build Better Relationships at Work - Understanding the psychological needs of others (and yourself) can help build strong relationships at work. A lot of useful information here about creating trust and openness to ease communication and collaboration.
Sometimes you don’t need a budget - Seth Godin with some great tips on what to focus on beyond a budget. You can do all of these for free and watch the benefits roll in.
Skip the beach
Ted Gonder’s recent blog post about taking “emotional vacations” to counteract the burden of life and work stress touches on some important points that many people prefer not to talk about. We don’t want to admit that keeping ahead of responsibilities at home or work can create anxiety that builds up until we reach a breaking point. It looks much better to handle everything that’s thrown at us with a smile and deliver a quick, well-executed result.
Hopefully employees schedule a vacation before stress sets in and work quality suffers. But Gonder suggests an alternative to the typical weekend outing or beach getaway: taking time to write and read regularly, pushing your physical limits with a tough workout, eating well, reflecting on your close relationships.
Saving a few of your days off for a different kind of vacation could go a lot further than a complicated, meticulously planned trip or a few days drinking cocktails on the beach. Read Ted’s post for more ideas.