We are very quick to judge. But, we are not always clear about the standard (expectation) from which we  base our opinion. We are even less likely to consider how we have adopted that standard

Whose Standard Shapes Your Expectation?

Every expectation you have comes from some combination of:

  • Organizations who have employed you.
  • Bosses you either appreciated or didn’t.
  • Clients who created great success or failures with your help.
  • Family, as a system or members who were particularly influential.
  • Communities where you have lived or participated (e.g., school, camps, volunteer, religious, cultural, etc.)
  • Teams that gelled organically or intentionally.
  • Industry practice or regulatory requirements

The performance standards that you consider yours are likely sourced from one or more of these origins.

When someone doesn’t perform to your expectation, they either 1) don’t know, 2) cannot do it, or 3) have a different set of standards. Knowing which one is the culprit is important.

Who Said You Were “Right?”

One of the most dysfunctional conversations regarding performance is the debate about expectations. Unless you are shaping the expectation together, it’s far  healthier to focus on the clarity of that expectation with an acknowledgment that the standard you are using is not necessarily “right.”

Using logic, no standard can be correct. Even scientific standards change with discovery. Better to simply acknowledge that the expectation is yours, the organization’s, the big boss’s, etc.

Who Has The Power?

A companion concept to “no standard is right” is that someone does have the power to decide. Of course, this who can be vague.

It’s good to know what standards you have the power to set and those you don’t.

Own Your Personal Standards

Declaring that the standard is simply a personal one is powerful. I often suggest that clients with a new team create a guide of sorts on “how to work successfully with me.” It might be the Top 5  To-Dos and and the Top 3 No-Nos (unlikely actual title).

Be bold enough to say that not everyone has the same standard, but that you are clear and serious about your expectations. Depending on the setting, you can add the likely consequences of not performing.

If you have children or remember your childhood, you might remember the parent-child banter “none of my friends have to ____” with a quick retort that “our family isn’t the same as other families.” What I’m talking about here is exactly the same situation.

The bottom line? Reduce resistance or discord in how you collectively view a specific performance by isolating who has the power to set the standard (along with a clear statement of what is expected, of course).

This week, notice your own expectations of your team, your boss, your organization. Consider from where and how you have adopted those expectations.