Speaking from Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time
Doing the Right Thing is a book about people who work in offices, why we fight, and how we can stop fighting, solve our problems, and get back to work. All materials on this site Copyright © Marianne Powers 2002. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time

Full Book Outline:

---People Are What They Are and It's Irrelevant Anyway
---We Don't Know What Other People Are Capable of Achieving
---People Are Not Accountable for Their Thoughts and Feelings
---We Don't Know What Other People are Thinking and Feeling
---People Are Accountable for Their Words and Actions
---Assume Everyone is Doing the Best They Can
---Assume Everyone Has a Good Reason for What They Say and Do

---Listen Very Carefully
---Welcome Information, Criticism is Information
---If You Have a Choice, Don't Choose to be Hurt
---Examine Your Motives
---Targeting Problems is Good, Targeting People is Evil
---If You Want Someone to Do Something for You, You Have to Be Completely on Their Side
---When People Don't Understand, Listen Better

---State Your Position Clearly and Ask for What You Want Specifically
---Tell Them Even If You Know They Won't Understand
---All You Can Do is Tell Them, You Can't Make Anyone Do Anything
---When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations
---Give Them 100 Tries to Get It Right
---If They Can't Get It Right in 100 Tries, There Must Be Something Wrong with the Procedure
---Teach Everyone to Do Everything

When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations
It sometimes seems to me that all the disappointment, hurt, and anger in the world comes from someone not meeting expectations, either someone elseís or their own. The problem is not that people let you down or that you donít accomplish all that you ought to accomplish. The problem is that you keep wishing for what you think should be instead of accepting what is.

It is true that we could not function very well without expectations. I expect to have hot water for my shower in the morning. When Iím driving to work, I expect that people will stop at red lights and go on green. I expect that most of my coworkers will come to work on a workday. I expect that I will work hard and be productive. I expect that other people will get help from me and that I will get help from other people during the day. I expect that my family will be there when I come home.

There is nothing wrong with that. Like a dance that we all know, our expectations of ourselves and each other helps us to move easily and gracefully through our day, each adding to the performance and not getting in each otherís way or stepping on each otherís toes.

But what if one of the things that I expect to happen doesnít happen? It should happen. But it doesnít. I am stopped at a stoplight. My light turns green. I know the other light has turned red. I expect the other drivers to stop. But I look before I go, because I know that sometimes people run red lights. If I donít look and someone does run the red light and runs into me, it wonít matter to me very much why they ran the red light. I will be hurt just as much if they ran it because they were too idiotically impatient to wait for the next cycle or if their brakes failed. It will be better for me (and them, for that matter) if I accept that sometimes people donít do what I think they are supposed to do, whether it is because they wonít or they canít or even because they didnít know they were supposed to.

I used to have expectations of the people that worked for me. I expected them to come to work every day, get to work on time, work diligently throughout the day, take breaks and lunches at the designated times, do what I told them to do exactly how and when I told them to do it, and revere me as the perfect boss that I was. Whenever they did not meet my expectations, I got mad. If they criticized (or made fun!) of me, I was surprised, hurt, and mad. Anyone who didnít meet my expectations was defective. The only possibilities were that they would be able to overcome their flaws, at least while they were at work, so that they could meet my expectations, or they would have to go.

You might think that I would have had trouble keeping people, but I donít think the turnover was high for an office like ours. What I wanted was perfection. There were actually a lot of people who seemed to want to deliver perfection, even if it was just one personís version of it, but it was very hard on all of us. It was hard on me because I was disappointed and angry much of the time. It was hard on them because they never could entirely succeed at being ďperfectĒ, though some of them tried very hard. For the ones who werenít interested in being ďperfectĒ, of course, it was hell. And we were all on the wrong path anyway. What I thought of as perfection was really just ďmy way of doing thingsĒ. We would have been closer to achieving perfection if I had listened to them as much as they listened to me and if we had all thought about how we were doing things and learned how other people did them so that we could constantly get better.

I still have expectations of the people who work for me. But if they donít meet my expectations, I know that being disappointed or angry is just my aversion to admitting I might have been wrong and to having to come up with a new plan. Whether the plan is mine or is developed by a group I belong to, my expectations are what I think will work. If I am right, everyone can and will do their part, the parts will accomplish the whole of what we want to do, and we will achieve our goals. If I am wrong, not everyone can or will do their part or they donít know what their part is or the parts will not accomplish the whole, and we will have to review our plan and come up with a new one. Thatís the way it is. Getting angry will not change the way it is. It will only waste time and energy.

Sometimes someone wonít meet your expectations because what you expect is not just too difficult for that person, it is too difficult for the situation, or doesnít accomplish the goal. That happens most often when you decide what other people can or will do without talking to the other people. But sometimes even when the people involved think something will work, it proves to be impractical when they try to implement it. For those times, you donít need to change just your expectations of a person, you need to change your expectations entirely.

I used to expect that people in the call center could enter 100 claims a day and not make any mistakes. I used to get mad at them if they didnít meet that expectation. I told their supervisor that he should get better people and make them do their work correctly. When I came back to that company a few years later, I had learned that the problem was not that they made mistakes. The problem was my expectation that they wouldnít. I knew that I didnít need to find better people, I needed to change my expectations. I still wanted the claims to be paid correctly. So I audited the claims to find and correct any errors. That worked better than getting mad at people. Eventually, our software was enhanced so that it didnít allow most of the errors we used to make. That worked even better.

As difficult as it has been to rethink my expectations or change plans at times, avoiding those things has always just added that much more time to the process. It is much less painful for everyone if I donít cling to or try to enforce my expectations. If I adapt quickly, it almost seems as if it was part of the process of figuring out the solution and not a problem at all!

Next Section: Give Them 100 Tries to Get It Right

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