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The World of Expectations, Part 3

(This is the 3rd part of a 3-part series, if you haven’t yet, I recommend you read the first 2 parts to set the context for yourself)

So far in this conversation together, we’ve seen the startling degree to which how we see the world, our behavior, actions and results are all shaped, filtered- really given by our expectations. A simple, if oversimplified, cut at the idea would be: who we are is a function of our expectations.

Now that we’ve explored this in-depth from the perspective of our own expectations, let’s shift the view one more time and take a look at the critical importance of the expectations of others in our performance and quality of life. From there, we’ll create direct access to actionable ways to elevate our performance.

In business and in life, action calls for coordination. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, a manager of 20 or the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, your very ability to produce- your opportunity to perform- is dependent on the performance of other people, organizations and entities. Just to be clear, this is the case even when you “work alone”. We make promises, take certain actions, and avoid certain actions based on the expectation that the people and entities with which we participate will perform a certain way.

For example:

I place an order for office supplies based on the expectation that the accounting was done accurately and we have the money in place to pay for it. I drive to a prospective client’s location for a meeting, of course expecting that he or she will be there, prepared to meet. I make projections and promises for performance to my superiors, based on certain expectations of my team’s performance. I engage with a client who pays on a monthly basis on the expectation that he or she will actually pay, and at the agreed-upon time. And so on…

Now flip that, and we again see this principle in action:

My office supplier provides those goods on the expectation that I have the money in place to pay them for their products and service. The prospective client has cleared their schedule; forfeiting the ability to do whatever else they could be doing, expecting that I’ll indeed show up (and on time). My superiors plan around, and take action consistent with, the projections and promises that I’ve given, expecting me to fulfill on them. My client pays whatever and however they pay, expecting me to deliver on the intended outcomes around which we’ve designed our engagement.

You see, in any of these cases, and I say in all cases, our performance- in fact, our very chance of performing as committed- is inextricably interwoven with the performance of others, as is their performance interdependent with mine. Always and forever. Period. It is the nature of social coordination.

I think that this is probably very clear by now.

So, why is this important? It’s only important if you want your business, your relationships, your life to really work (and therefore have a chance to thrive); this is a conversation for basic workability. The Oxford Dictionary defines workable as “capable of producing the desired effect or result.” For our purposes, we define workability as “the state or condition that determines the available opportunity for performance”. From there, we can get that, where coordination is required (as in an object, system, group, organization, community or society), a state of full workability requires that each part perform as expected. Where that’s not the case, the very integrity of the thing is compromised.

(integrity: the state of being whole, complete, uncorrupted, etc.)

Where the integrity of something is compromised or lacking, workability is diminished. To the degree that workability is diminished, our opportunity for performance is diminished (individually and across the board).

Think of a bicycle wheel. If you’ve got spokes missing or not holding up, how is that going to go for you as the rider? Even just one missing or dysfunctional part will limit your chance to perform and, over time, given the extra strain put on the other parts and the rider in compensating for that missing piece, the workability fades and fades until finally the whole thing breaks down.

Lance Armstrong himself ain’t winning the race with a broken bike.

(Also worth noting is the fact that workability doesn’t guarantee performance, it just determines our opportunity to perform. Rigorously said, integrity is a necessary but insufficient condition for performance. Not rigorously said, the fact that your bike works great doesn’t mean that you’ll win the race- it just means that you stand a chance.)

So what do you do with all this? Simple: If you want your business to work, your relationships to work, your life to work, do what there is to do to bring back the integrity where it’s lacking. The access to that is through the completion of the expectations around you. Whether those expectations are from the word you’ve given, your previous performance, the performance of a predecessor, your job description, laws, morals or whatever… it is up to you to take responsibility for them and get them complete if you’re actually committed to increasing your performance.

So, in any area where it seems difficult to perform or you’re just committed to take it to the next level, I recommend that you:

1.       Get crystal clear on what’s expected of you,

2.       “Clean up” any mess, mischief, upset or other unworkability created by not having known and met (or explicitly declined to meet) those expectations up until now (that is, take responsibility and deal with the consequences),

3.       Once you’ve restored your “integrity” with people, do what there is to do to fulfill (or explicitly decline) what’s expected from then on,

4.       And repeat as necessary.

That’s really it. This is one of those black and white conversations; there really is no grey area. Just like the fact that you’re either pregnant or you’re not, something either works or it doesn’t. When it boils down to it, we’re either committed to high performance (and high quality of life) or not. If we are, then I say we must necessarily commit to maximum workability, a primary access to which for people (in coordinated action) is the expectations of others.

So, let us know what you think about these ideas, and how this exercise goes for you. We have supported hundreds, indeed thousands, of people in doing this kind of work, and we’re here to support you however we can.

I hope this has been a valuable conversation for you. As always, please be In Communication.

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