I boarded Direct Air flight #5915 on March 5th for a flight to the sunny south, fully expecting that the airline would fly me safely home again 10 days later. Ah - no! Six days after my departure, the airline went bankrupt and I was left to fend for myself. Feeling angry, disappointed and ripped off, I spent hours searching the Internet for a flight that wouldn't break the bank. It was the height of Spring Break in Florida and flights were hard to come by.
After a few frustrating hours, trying to get a coherent answer from the airlines, and an assurance from VISA that they would refund my loss, I took a walk and found myself wondering...what exactly had I expected when I booked this flight? I fly a fair bit and haven't given much thought lately to my expectations for travel. Air travel certainly isn't what it used to be and, over time, we - the flying public - have been forced to lower our expectations incrementally.
Slowly, we've traded our hopes for a hot, healthy in-flight meal, for a cold, starch-heavy 'snack'. At the last minute, we're now asked to hand over our credit cards to pay for that suitcase that used to fly free. And the free movie, that provided distraction on those long trips ...four dollars please! Truth be told, most of us have swapped the probability of a great flying experience, for a 'just get me there in one piece' prayer.
Expectations are powerful. What we believe about what we 'should' be given, or how relationships and situations are 'supposed' to unfold, form the foundation of our emotional experience as consumers, parents and employees. The power of expectations is clearly evident when there is a change in our lives. Leaders often 'expect' employees to be excited about organizational changes, willing and able to grasp the vision. Employees expect that their leaders will keep them informed about every step of the transition, and understand their pain. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? So, why is everyone angry, frustrated and looking for someone to blame during the hard parts of a change? Simply put, the real expectations we hold are seldom explored, clearly defined or shared.
How can a leader, parent or team member 'manage' their expectations? Here are a few ideas:
Explore your own expectations before stepping into change; ask yourself:
What do I think will happen, how quickly and to what degree?
What do I hope or anticipate others will do in response to the changes I'm initiating?
What have others encountered when attempting a change of this size and importance that can inform my goals and plans?
What will I do if my expectations are not met, or even understood?
And now for the really important piece...share your expectations. Talk openly with those people who are involved in your change, or from whom you will need some sort of help or response in order to be successful. You just may find out that, the very person, team or company that you are depending on to cooperate with you has a different view of their participation. Preparation will keep you from experiencing a whole range of unpleasant emotions. And, it just might help you prepare a Plan B that, when push comes to shove- and it always does in a change - could save your bacon!
Planning a change? Want to clarify your expectations first? Call me...