I was scrolling through a news feed the other day when I saw a quote that said something along the lines of, "the reason we find ourselves frustrated is because our expectations have not been met."
Think about this for a second. This was a powerful quote for me and the more I have thought about its application to my professional and personal life, the more value I have found in this quote. When we apply this to the relationships we have both at work and at home, there is an expectation that is given.
If we don't want to find ourselves in a state of frustration, we need to ensure we have made our expectations clear.
Let's put this into perspective through a few situations I am sure we have all experienced:
~ Two employees have been tasked with completing an urgent project for their supervisor. Once the project is assigned to the two employees, they begin work. Because these two employees have worked together for a few years and have worked on several projects together, they jumped right into the work with very little discussion. At their mid-project review, employee A is surprised to see that employee B did not do what they normally would have done. In fact, employee B only did a quarter of the work and there was a significant gap in where they should be at this point in the development process. From this, employee A becomes frustrated at employee B and an argument ensues.
~ A work team has been assigned a new supervisor due to the previous supervisor retiring. When the new supervisor arrives at the first team meeting, the supervisor gives a brief introduction and tells the team to keep doing what they have been doing. There is no discussion beyond this. After a few weeks of working with the team, the new supervisor is becoming more and more frustrated with the pace and quality of work. The new supervisor calls a team meeting and lectures the team that they need to do better in multiple areas.
~A team has been developing a frustration within the ranks due to an increase in workload. Arguments are becoming a normal experience and the supervisor is constantly frustrated with all of the complaining that is occuring within their team.
From these three examples, we can see an obvious theme connecting them. Communication. In each of these scenarios, a discussion is needed. More specifically, a discussion around expectations is needed. How many times do we find ourselves annoyed or frustrated at someone because internally, we don't agree with what they are doing. We may look at their actions and say something like, "I wouldn't do it that way" or "I don't know why they responded the way they did. I would have responded totally different." Regardless of the reasoning, there is a clear gap in expectations.
This is where it becomes difficult. We are all unique. We all have different experiences that shape our personal norms. How can we expect people to accomodate our personal expectations? We can't. That is the challenge. We are all different and therefore we are all going to have different expectations. This does not mean that we cannot work together, but it does ask us to be flexible and willing to listen to others.
In any team situation, I encourage teams take some time to discuss the expectations they have for the team. This can be a really simple process. Let me show you:
Employee to Team: What are the key themes that make a team successful?
Typical ansers may include: Communication, trust, respect, listening, cooperation, teamwork, etc.
Employee to Team: Ok, let's look at communication. What are the expectations we have around communication within our team?
I like to have a flipchart available when doing this so we can compile our list of expectations. If you don't have access to flipchart paper, a simple piece of paper works great as well!
Once everyone contributes then we can move onto the other themes that were identified.
Here are the benefits / outcomes of this:
1. We ~ not I ~ are providing a space where everyone has a chance to share their expectations for the team ~ not an individual person.
2. Once they have all been laid out, the team can agree or disagree on what they will leverage moving forward. ~again, this is a team decision.
3. Once each of the themes have been discussed, you will have an expectations document that can be used moving forward. I encourage revisiting the list a few times and operationalizing the expectations for full understanding of what those expectations look like.
Once this has been done - POST IT EVERYWHERE!! Seriously, have someone put it into a Word document or PDF and post it all over. Why? Because if these expectations are not visible, we will forget.
Once this document has been created by the team, we can use it in a variety of ways:
1. We can take the guess work out of how people will respond or handle situations
2. This list was created by the team and can therefore be used as an accountability tool. If someone chooses to not handle a situation the way the team agreed, then a discussion can be had to better understand why. Again, this isn't a personal document that was created - which could lead to more conflict. Rather, the team created and agreed on it. When we bring this up to someone, it takes some of the edge off because they know the discussion is not a personal attack.
3. An expansion idea for this document would be to connect the teams values to the expectations document. This is another opportunity to link the core values of the team to the expectations that were created.
4. Finally, REVISIT the document on a quarterly basis. We know change is happening all around us. This is not a one and done document. This should be a fluid agreement the team can leverage in almost any situation.
Overall, the goal in completing an activity like this is to increase the amount of communication a team has. If we can create environments where staff feel safe to share their personal expectations without the fear of being made fun of or ignored, we are not only creating a comfort for personal opinions to be leveraged, but we are ultimately building our trust and connection within the team.
Frustration can be an opportunity. I encourage you to take some time to think about those things that are frustrating you now and ask yourself "why?" Be honest with yourself and ask: Is my expectation realistic? and have I told the other person about my expectations? Just like any behavior, I cannot make some change their behavior for me. However, if I am intentional and clear about my expectations, then I can feel comfortable knowing that I provided my thoughts for the situation. Should they choose to not acknowledge them, then we can ove forward. Yes, this may lead to frustration, but let me encourage you to see that frustration as an opportunity and not a barrier.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I encourage you to give the activity mentioned above a try within your team.
If you have any questions or if I can provide clarity on anything I mentioned, please reach out at email@example.com