How to Handle False Expectations of You as a Leader

October 31, 2012

" Last time we talked about dealing with the way people perceive you as a leader. In this post we look at perceptions problematic twin: expectations. These two are natural bed mates. Because of the way a person will perceive you, it will ultimately leave them with expectations and as we learned last time, most people live with perceptions of you rather than the reality. So, false perceptions of you as a leader will undoubtedly yield false expectations. How do we deal with it There is a three-fold problem when it comes to handling the perceptions people have of you. 1. People naturallymistrust those they do not know personally. 2. That mistrust is amplified when the person they don't know personally is a leader. 3. Most people live by their perceptions rather than the reality. This may be part of the reason that a majority of people have no problem with Jesus and have deep issues with the church. Most of this is generated by fear, and fear fuelled by false assumptions is a toxic combination. So when it comes to handling people's expectations, I think there are two very important points to consider. 1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Nothing derails false expectations like clear communication. Whoever you are accountable to, or whoever you are accountable for, make sure you have the ""expectations conversation"". For instance, our kids ministry is exploding, but our volunteer base is not keeping up with the demand. In reality, this is always a tension in a growing church-finances and volunteers are often lagging behind the growth. But in our case we were complicating the issue because our volunteers did not have clear expectations of what volunteering in that ministry entailed. So we would find volunteers and then weeks later they would resign in frustration because the demands were higher than what they were told. And in retrospect we could play the blame game and see the fault in the volunteers. But we were also playing the bait and switch with them. They were expecting one thing in volunteering, and seeing something different in reality. That disparity was too much for some. Had we been clear about the expectations, we would have saved ourselves a lot of grief. And the same is true of most situations where we are asking something of someone. Communicating and documenting expectations will go a long way to taming this problem. 2. Try and anticipate and look ahead. As a leader, whenever a decision is made, expectations are automatically attached to that decision. For instance, we recently made some staffing changes, primarily in the way the budget reflected the way the staff were being paid. For the leadership it made perfect sense, but to the congregation it looked as if we were trying to hide some of the staffing costs which raised questions of integrity for some. Without getting into the details, due to the way the budget reflected part of the staff salaries, suddenly expectations were placed on the staff that were nowhere part of their job description. Lesson learned. Had we paused when we made the decision and thought about what the expectations would be, we could have alleviated a lot of headaches and presented the whole matter in a different way. One that would have anticipated the expectations and dealt with them openly at the beginning of the process. You may not care what perceptions or expectations people have of you. But everyone has them, and at some point it will affect your leadership. So why not consider how these two can better be managed. I would love to hear from you? What do you think and do you have any helpful advice that I missed?"


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