You love upsets, don’t you? Of course you don’t, because you haven’t seen how they can actually lead you to great insight and more success. While I love to be creative and strategic as a coach/consultant, a lot of my work with teams is surprisingly in the world of UPSET. Not me being upset or even others having so much big dramatic upset, but in helping teams and leaders pull understanding, clarity and consistent success forward out of their daily upsets.
We all have them, and they fall on a spectrum of upsets from tiny annoyances barely worth mentioning to huge fights or confrontations. How many have you had in the last week somewhere on that spectrum? How many were you able to deconstruct, then rebuild for success forward. Check this out…
Basically, we can break down ANY upset to find an expectation underneath that didn’t get met. In the moment, it doesn’t matter why your expectation wasn’t met- just that it wasn’t. Hence the upset.
So much of my coaching work with leaders and teams comes down to this topic of upsets and expectations. It almost always presents itself as an complaint (usually an irritation to start), and I first identify it as an upset, then coach to peel the layers of it back to reveal an expectation that was there all the time, and hasn’t been met by someone else. Often, this is where the real work begins. The trickiest part is that the most problematic expectations are ones we either assume or don’t even realize we had until they weren’t met by someone else.
This ends up in judgments and decisions about whether a person “has what it takes” for a role/job or not, whether an organization or school is the “right fit” for me or not, whether performance, a service or a establishment is “competent” or “good”, etc.
Here’s the big insight…. I find that most of time, the person walking away, being let go or carrying a judgment about the competency/quality of another is sadly from an upset based on unarticulated expectations. What was expected in the first place for “success” or “good” or “competent” wasn’t ever clearly articulated, so those expectations weren’t ever met. Granted- maybe they couldn’t have been met anyhow due to capability, skill, etc., but often we never actually know if it was even possible or not without getting those expectations clear, up and out on the table.
Sometimes we’ll be incredibly self-aware in hindsight and get to the following:
“Hmm… why am I so irritated with you? Maybe because I actually have been expecting X from you all along, and you haven’t been delivering it, so you just continue to irritate [upset] me over and over!”
Rarely is any of this said out loud, yet might be internally by the voice in our heads if we’re really aware and honest.
Ideally we’d realize all of that and say it out loud, followed by the following:
“Hmm… did you even know that I was holding that expectation? Now that you do, can you meet it? Is it realistic, or do we need to talk about it to reset agreed-upon expectations?”
Usually that last part is what I coach about.
Now let me be clear… sometimes expectations are clear, articulated, and agreed to, but still unmet (that’s a different issue, different blog topic I’ll post another time, called accountability). First things first…
Let’s work on getting expectations clear, up, out and in agreement. This will be huge.
I guarantee you that if you look around in your immediate professional and personal life right now, you can find an upset somewhere (remember an irritation is a baby upset). If you start peeling layers off the surface of that upset, underneath you’ll find an expectation you’ve been holding which hasn’t been met. Let’s start cleaning that up, then we can get to the next part of holding one another accountable.
Here’s what to do:
- Identify an upset (can range from irritation to confrontation/fight/end of an arrangement). If you can’t find one, contact me, and I’ll coach you to be more honest with yourself and see them all around you.
- Ask yourself: What expectation did I have of this person (although it could be with a process, team or organization) which has not been met?
- Ask yourself: Was this expectation clearly articulated to the other person involved (who didn’t deliver)? Did they actually know and understand the expectations, and confirm that they could/would meet them?
Then, do this...
If NO was your answer:
- Go back to the person in question, articulate your upset and the expectations you’ve been holding all along. Start over by re-setting expectations clearly and with agreement (as in “yes, I can do that”). Make sure with the other person that these new expectations are realistic. If they’re not, adjust them or tap other resources to meet them.
- Getting agreement on expectations (maybe even a third set- not your or their original list, but a new set you create out of those together), then you can follow up differently afterward. Agreements are meatier than expectations, and much more follow-up-able.
- Hold this person in your mind as able to meet your expectations (see In-10-tion).
- Hold this person accountable in the way you check in and follow up. They’ll deliver!
If YES was your answer…
- Go back to the person in question, restate the expectations again, how they specifically weren’t met, and your upset.
- Ask for some ownership on their part in this, acknowlegment of what it cost you, andan apology.
- Make a request to either understand why the expectations weren’t met. While this may not cause you to want to re-engage, you’ll at least make your decision forward from an informed place AND you might be surprised. More than a few times, I’ve learned of some crazy circumstance that prevented delivery, causing me to rethink it all and re-start with this person.
- Either re-start and give them another chance with adjusted expectations and re-commitment…or not. You may find that it’s too late to re-start, but at least you’ll have been direct, clear and left the other party with a clean understanding of an opportunity they’ll have next time to get it right.
Going forward, start asking yourself “What am I expecting?” Do this all over the place- going into meetings, coming out of meetings, spending time with your family, starting a project, agreeing to go out with someone… then get as articulate as you appropriately can about your expectations with those you’re expecting to deliver, and get agreement. If by “Yes, I’d love to go out with you” you’re really expecting a quiet dinner for two while your date’s planning to bring you out with six of his/her closest friends you’ve never met, you might be setting yourself up for an upset (actually what happened on my first date with my husband, but that’s for another day).
The more flexible your expectations, the more chances for success, but be honest- our true expectations are usually more solid and inflexible than we’re willing to admit, let alone articulate.
So, go- expect big things, be clear and specific about it, get agreement, and get success every time! If you don’t, I want to hear about it.