Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Expectations

Interesting phenomenon, expectations.  I am a child and a parent.  My parents were never disappointed in me.  They always had high expectations of what I could do and be,  just not as high as they had for my brothers.  Both my brothers were very fine musicians and went into the music business, one as a university percussion professor, and one as a member of a prominent orchestra.  I went to public schools and got fired 9 times.  Ooops!  I felt I never lived up to my parents’ expectations.

On the other hand, I expected the best out of my children no matter what the field.  2 of my children have done very well for themselves, and 3 (in my opinion) are struggling.  Those 3 are “struggling”  because their potential is so much more than they have aspired to.  They do not believe they could do the things they had dreamed of and so they didn’t really try.  The article I published yesterday had to do with people determining the difficulty level of the tasks they were facing before deciding whether the end results would be worth the effort.  They would definitely fit into that category.  All of my kids will read this post and point fingers at the brothers and sisters they think are slacking.  The truth is, my opinion doesn’t matter any more.  Theirs does.  If they do not believe their potential is more than their current position, they’re right.  If they DO believe their potential is more than their current position, they’re also right.  Only they can know what is inside them.  I can only surmise.

So…I have an older student who’s playing guitar had a particularly good lesson.  She is one of those that characterize the material she had to learn last week as something that would most likely cause a mental break down, bleeding fingers, and ultimate disappointment.  When she came for her lesson, she didn’t appear to have had a lobotomy, she was wearing no bandages for her fingers, and she played quite well.  I complemented her on her excellent work!  Then I said you should pat yourself on the back.  “Oh, I never do that.”  Of course, I forgot!  She’d had shoulder surgery and it hurt to put her hand  behind her head.  So I said she should then pat herself on the head.  “No, I never do that.”  Why not?  You did a good job.  If you don’t, I will!  “No, it was slow and awkward.  I don’t deserve it.”  It was supposed to be slow, and it was not awkward for your particular skill level.  You did great!  She started to cry.  ???  “I’m not used to compliments.  I could never be good enough for my father.  He said I was a total loser.”  Do I look like your dad?  Lordy!  I HOPE NOT!  I have been teaching nearly 50 years.  I have a degree in music and have been playing guitar for at least 50 years.  I think I’m qualified to tell you that you did a good job.  In my opinion, if your dad was here, he’d either say “Good job!” or I’d knock him on his butt.

Why would she still be trying to get his approval for who she is and what she does?  She’s a talented guitarist.  She makes lovely jewelry.  She’s an expert at herb gardening and landscaping.  That is something to be proud of.  And that she’s adventurous enough to start guitar after age 50 is a rare thing as most give up on learning to play any instrument after high school age.  Her expectations are low for herself.  She thinks she probably won’t be very good, but she’ll do the best she can.  The best she can will be good enough!  The thing is, she has already surpassed what she envisioned she’d be able to do in the short time she’s been taking lessons.  Yet her expectations are still low.  Her self perception is something that I work on every lesson, and eventually, she may see herself grabbing the brass ring.

As a leader, you have to work with the expectations you have for your followers.  Are they unreasonably high?  Are they unreasonably low?  Do you expect more from your crew than they can give?  Or do you expect nothing from them?  You must choose a middle ground and make those expectations clear to them.  Praise them when they exceed those expectations and celebrate their successes.  If they fall short, work with them and ask them questions about their performance and what they plan on doing differently.  They may require more training.  They may require more people to do the job.  They may want more guidance about how to reach these expectations.  It will require insight on both your part and your group’s part.  Connect with them and achieve marvelous things.


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