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Do You Set Expectations for Your Organization? Here’s Why They’re Not Working

Do You Set Expectations for Your Organization? Here’s Why They’re Not Working


    (Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Garret Kramer, author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life. Garret is the founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC. His revolutionary approach to performance has transformed the careers of professionals athletes and coaches, Olympians, and collegiate players across a multitude of sports. Kramer’s work has been featured on WFAN, ESPN, Fox, and CTV, as well as in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications. For more information on the author visit http://www.garretkramer.com, and you can follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.)

    At my daughter’s summer camp, counselors have made a concerted effort over the past several years to eliminate bullying, wayward behavior, and mischief. In fact, the camp owner and management team recently decided to advertise their camp as an environment where meanness has no place. And, as such, this camp season they required all campers and parents to sign a code-of-conduct agreement where twenty-two camper expectations were listed in detail. Sounds reasonable and responsible, yes?

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    Well, regrettably, in spite of their sound intentions, behavior at this camp has not improved — it’s gotten worse. And this summer, several campers were repeatedly disciplined and threatened with expulsion for their unruly actions.

    Indeed, this situation is comparable to what is happening on college campuses across the U.S. Are you aware that underage students are abusing alcohol at alarming rates? It’s true, and the standard university response is to set more stringent expectations and throw more rules at the student population, even though (as guidelines grow) behavior continues to spiral downhill. We see a similar situation in pro sports. Even with increasingly intense player-development strategies, the amount of dysfunctional actions are escalating by the day, both on and off the playing field.

    How much more proof do we need that setting expectations does not inhibit errant behavior?

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    But why is this alarming trend occurring? And if setting stricter standards doesn’t work, what can be done to eliminate hurtful and disruptive conduct?

    The answer, believe it or not, has to do with a person’s free will and inherent functioning — and what happens when these innate attributes are compromised. In setting expectations, leaders are actually pointing people in the direction of (and thus energizing) what they are trying to avoid in the first place. To illustrate, if I tell my son how to behave as he embarks upon his college journey this week, my expectations are likely to clash with his own intuition, resulting in bound-up thinking (the opposite of a clear head) when he finds himself in a sticky situation — his first fraternity party, for example.

    Instead, what camps, schools, teams, leagues, families, and organizations must do is point their charges inward. Teach them that their mind-sets are naturally in flux — from a high feeling state (mood), their choices are automatically fruitful and empowering, but from a low feeling state, if they act, their choices will be desperate and destructive. We must promote and inspire free will by not telling others what is right or wrong, but by encouraging others to act when their state of mind is elevated and, thus, they are viewing life with compassion, love, resilience, and strength. From this perspective, a person’s behavior is always productive, for themselves and those around them.

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    The only way to encourage productive behavior is to point people inward. Expectations point people outward, toward somebody else’s definition of right and wrong.

    The bottom line is that telling others what to do, what to look out for, or what behavior is and is not expected — points them away from their own freedom and instincts. Plus, rather than punishing or disciplining when they don’t fit an organization’s definition of “appropriate” (which only escalates the tension and bewilderment), leaders should be teaching others about what their feelings are trying to tell them. The “off” feeling in their stomachs before the 15-year-old boy campers raided a girls bunk, for instance, was telling them that their thinking was momentarily off course, and they were about to make a big mistake if they proceeded.

    It’s time that we look away from behavior and toward the state of mind that creates the behavior. We’ve put the cart before the horse, and, sadly, our young people are paying an extremely steep price for it. After all, isn’t summer camp supposed to be a place where kids grow, discover, make mistakes, and prosper? Isn’t it a place where free will is supposed to bloom?

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    Author’s note: I am well aware that the preceding point of view is outside the norm. All I ask is that you consider it with an open mind. Our insecurities often tell us that we must set expectations and rules, and discipline accordingly—we should never listen to our insecure thoughts.

    (Photo credit: Overall Performance via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2018

    How to Find a Suitable Professional Mentor

    How to Find a Suitable Professional Mentor

    I went through a personal experience that acted as a catalyst for an epiphany. When I got fired from a job, I learned something important about myself and where I was headed with my freelance career. I realized that the most important aspect of that one rather small job was the influence of the company owner. I realized that I wasn’t hurt that the company and I weren’t a perfect match; I was devastated by the stark fact that I needed a mentor and I had almost found one but lost her.

    Suddenly, I felt like J.D., the main character in “Scrubs,” chasing Dr. Cox and trying to rip insight and wisdom from someone I respect. The realization that a recognized thought-leader and experienced entrepreneur severed ties with me felt crushing. But, I picked myself back up and thought about five ways to acquire a mentor without having the awkwardness of outright asking.

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    1. Remember, a professional mentorship must be mutual.

    A professional mentor must agree to engage in a mutual relationship because, as the comedy T.V. series showed us, one simply cannot force someone to tutor us. We have to prove that we are worth the time investment through persistence and dedication to the craft.

    2. You have to have common interests with your mentor.

    Even if a professional mentor appears at your job or school, realize that unless you and this person have common interests, you won’t find the relationship successful. I’ve been in situations where someone I respected had vastly different ideas about what was important in life or what one should spend his or her free time doing. If these things don’t line up, you may find the relationship won’t be as fruitful, even when the mentor knows a great deal about one industry.

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    3. Thought-leaders will respect your passion.

    One of the ways you can prove yourself worthy to a professional mentor is through your passion and your dedication. No one wants to spend time grooming and teaching another who will not take advice or put the effort in to improve. When following thought-leaders on Twitter and trying to engage with higher-ups in a work setting, realize that your actions most often speak louder than your words.

    4. Before worrying if he respects you, ask if you respect him.

    On the other side of the coin, you should seriously reflect on those common interests and make sure you respect your professional mentor. Just because someone holds a title, degree or office does not mean that person is trustworthy or honest. Don’t be swayed by appearances and take the time to find a suitable professional mentor.

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    5. Failure is often the best way to learn

    I honestly have made more mistakes than I can count. I know I’ve learned a great deal from poorly organized businesses and my own poor choices. The most important quality I’ve developed is an ability to swallow my pride and learn from my mistakes. If life knocks me down nine times, I get back up 10 times. One of the songs Megadeth wrote, “Of Mice and Men,” resonates in my mind when I pull myself up by my bootstraps and try again for a goal I’ve set: “So live your life and live it well. There’s not much left of me to tell. I just got back up each time I fell.” Hopefully, this brief post can act as a professional mentor to you in your quest to find not only a brave leader but also a trusted adviser.

    Featured photo credit: morguefile via mrg.bz

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