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Managing expectations: We reap the seeds we sow

Expectations are beliefs of what will happen in the future. These beliefs determine our perceptions that, in turn, impact the decisions we make and the interactions we have with others. To understand expectations, we need to be aware of our biases. Over 180 cognitive biases may “get in the way” of our capacity to see a situation for what it is. For example, when we apply a framing bias, we make decisions based on the information presented. The concern about this is that the information shown may be one-sided.

Similarly, confirmation bias empowers us to look for and interpret information that confirms our beliefs. In this context, our beliefs only enable us to see a situation from one perspective. Understanding bias also makes us aware of how it impacts our expectations about ourselves, others, and life.

Being aware of the power of expectations is critical in leadership. The Pygmalion effect highlights how our expectations impact how we grow and develop (or not) the people in our care. In the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Eliza Dolittle exemplifies how one person’s expectations of another impact their behaviour. What does this mean for leadership? As leaders, we need to think about the expectations we have about our staff. If we unintentionally treat them in a way that lowers their performance, then low performance is what we get. Instead, if we set high goals and expectations, we are more likely to see increased productivity.

With the festive season ahead and more time to reflect, I invite you to think about your expectations of your staff.

What are your expectations about your staff’s ability to perform successfully?

What measures do you have in place to do this?

What measures must you take to ensure your expectations are realistic and fair?

Have you taken the time to connect with your employees? What are their strengths?

Do you work with your employees/staff on areas for improvement?

Happy reflective holidays, everyone!


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