Episode 44: Leadership is Art because of Expectations – Leadership Arts Associates

Episode 44: Leadership is Art because of Expectations

The Transcript:

Hello and welcome to The Heart of It, the place where we talk people and possibilities. My name is Samm Smeltzer and I am your host for this fun, loving podcast. This week, we are sharing the five reasons why leadership is an art as we celebrate and count down to an incredible live Facebook announcement from Leadership Arts Associates happening on Friday at 10:00 am, Facebook Live. Make sure if you haven’t already that you like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/leadershipisart. It’s going to be awesome, it’s going to be epic, it’s going to be Friday at 10:00 am.

Happy Thursday. The weekend is one day closer. The announcement is one day closer and we are sharing reason number four. Just a little bit of a recap that reason number one was you. You as the artist, you as the leader are the number one reason for why leadership is an art. Reason number two was them, the individuals that we lead. We lead people, not widgets, and that individuality sometimes creates some challenges for us as leaders.

Reason number three was the lines. Getting to know the political organizational lines, boundaries for individuals and ourselves and how do we navigate all of that to have the awesome people strategy to create that organizational masterpiece? Now, we are to reason number four. I have to be honest that I hesitated putting reason number four on this list because it is something that is very relevant.

I’ve talked about it for the last three years that we’ve seen it as the source for a lot of the epidemics impacting the work environments for miscommunication, however it’s just not as sexy as the other reasons. It’s not as magical or popular or fun to talk about. It’s something that doesn’t sit too well with a lot of people. I’ve had clients who have actually gotten confrontational with me over their disagreements in regards to this whole concept of this reason number four.

I guess I should tell you what it is so that you know what I’m talking about. Reason number four is that we assume rather than expect. Assumptions is the reason why leadership is an art. Actually, expectations is the reason why leadership is an art. Really what’s happening out in the workplace right now and all of us are guilty, myself included, is that we through our years of experience have come to just assume that people should know certain things. This can lead to the common misconception of common sense.

This is something that I had a mentor I started in the training industry, Ms. Tracey Aust, illuminate for me that common sense really doesn’t exist. Common sense is basically what we assume that most people should know. We quickly turn those assumptions into expectations as leaders or managers and then we become very frustrated when someone doesn’t meet those expectations, yet we’ve never really set those expectations. We have just assumed that they should know what our expectations are.

That sounds like a complete tongue twister. For example, let’s talk about office etiquette. If you have an individual who works in an office by themselves and they routinely close the door, maybe that’s for them to concentrate. Maybe in your work environment, you assume that when they close their door, they don’t want to be part of the team, that they’re doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing. They’re being unproductive. Those are all assumptions that you have.

Then you reprimand them and tell them to not close their door anymore. There’s no real conversation and the person who sits in that office is bewildered by the fact that they got reprimanded because their door was closed when that’s really how they concentrate best. There’s a lot of things at play, but for this reason, what we’re really talking about is the fact that, for the most part, leadership, it is our job to set the expectations and then give people the opportunity to either meet it or not meet it or sometimes even exceed it.

For most of us, there’s a lot of things that we just assume. Dress code is another perfect example of what we assume. We assume that people will know that certain attire is not appropriate for the workplace. You’re also assuming that they’ve had an upbringing where somebody told them this somewhere along their life before they get to your workplace. There’s one story which is from my personal experience which I think lays this out very nicely.

It comes from a job, my last one before I had started Leadership Arts Associates where I was in the process of building my relationship with my new supervisor. What she did not know was prior, my job prior to when she hired me, my supervisor never really wanted us to say goodbye at the end of the day. They found it very disruptive. When the work days were over, we would just leave. You wouldn’t go out of your way to give a farewell greeting to this individual.

When I moved into this other organization and I was going through the process of my orientation, I can remember this very clearly that I got up from my workstation and I was getting ready to leave at the end of the day at the time that I’m supposed to leave. I saw my boss’s light on. I thought I should go and say goodbye and then I thought, well, no. She has to deal with me all the time. That’s probably not the best scenario. She probably is trying to get work done and be productive.

I know in the past that when I’ve worked with executives, my experience was that they don’t want to be disturbed. I assumed that this would be no different, so I left. Now the next day, I was brought in for a conversation with my boss asking me why I would just take off without saying goodbye. She was very transparent with me and this is the person who taught me that common sense doesn’t exist and we make assumptions rather than expectations.

She said to me that the story she was telling herself was that I was trying to get away with being unproductive or I was trying to get away with doing something or I didn’t like her, so all these things that she was telling herself. Kudos to her for being a great leader, for sitting down with me and sharing this with me and allowing me to set the record straight. We both learned something about the story I was telling myself and the story she was telling herself and then setting an expectation so moving forward when the light was on, I always said goodbye. That’s just the relationship that we had.

These happen all the time. In fact, if you’re in a work environment right now, I really challenge you to think about what are things that we just assume? Sometimes … I shouldn’t even say sometimes. Most of the times the ones that really should be expectations are the things that we really truly believe are stupid and that people should just know.

There is nothing out there that people just know unless you have some sort of certification and governing licensing body that’s providing that information. If it’s not taught in orientation, if it’s not established by the organization, you can’t just assume that people know. Reason number four is very real and alive. It’s something that we’re all dealing with every day.

I’m telling you it’s at the root cause of so many frustrations that you probably have as a leader, but it’s also one of the hardest hurdles to get over because you don’t want to accept what you really have to set expectations for. Expectation setting truly is an art. It’s always amazing to me when you do exercises where you have people set expectations and how easy you can just tear them apart by twisting the story or interpreting it from the story that I tell myself, which is our perceptions.

It’s an art to do and to follow up on and help it come alive and hold people accountable to it. Not really a fun reason, but truly is a reason why leadership is an art. That is number four and I am super excited to share with you tomorrow reason number five as we close it out and then I get to leave you so that you can build up anticipation for the 10:00 am live announcement from Leadership Arts Associates. Have a great Thursday and I will talk to you tomorrow. Thanks.


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