One of the biggest challenges any leader can face is knowing how to set the right expectations. Too often in the home, our expectations borderline perfection.
Business 101 is that if you close every sale, you're either not charging enough or you haven't talked to enough people yet.
Consider record holding athletes such as Michael Jordan. He has hit more game winning buzzer beaters than anyone else in the history of the NBA.
But he only made 45% – less than half – of the game winning buzzer beaters he took.
Jim Thome holds the Major League Baseball record for the most walk off home runs. Thome had 13 walk off home runs in his career.
Now compare that number 13 to over 2,500 games he played in during his career.
The examples go on, but more important is your answer to these next two questions.
First, why do you set yourself up to fail at leading your family by creating unrealistic expectations?
And second, how do you manage expectations as a leader in your home?
I'm going to answer both of those with you. But first, let me share a story.
When Expectations Stay Silent
Following the birth of my second child and then later our third child, my mother in law and my father in law came to stay with us for a week or so to help out.
The first time I had these grandiose visions of something similar to living in a full service resort.
They take care of the kids… clean the house… and cook the meals while my wife and I were going to rest and sleep and adjust to adding a new baby.
I don't know why I have that idea especially as the parent that wasn't even the one that just gave birth.
But there it was, that's what I'd created in my head. Needless to say, it didn't happen.
By the time it came for them to leave, I was actually relieved, because I also created this idea that because they were guests in my home, they were expecting a certain level of attention, or service or taking care of making sure that their needs were met.
There wasn't anything that they said or spoke, it was just something that I created in my head.
Why Worry Won’t Work
After that happened with baby number two, I obviously learned my lesson before they came to help with baby number three, right? Wrong.
Instead, I just worried about what it was going to be like.
I worried about how they would respond… or that they would think I was ungrateful if I said anything.
I worried they wouldn't come at all if I spoke up and my wife would be hurt. And then I would have this heavier load to bare have a new baby and two kids to watch.
I worried about losing my cool if I saw or experienced certain things that had triggered me the last time.
I worried about how miserable I was going to be with them here and how that would tarnish the work I was trying to do or my time with my other kids.
Frankly, I worried about 1000 different possibilities and I never addressed my real need.
One evening I was sitting on the couch and I was holding our brand new baby. My two year old son was crawling on me and trying to get closer to the baby.
Because of the way he was crawling on me and how I was holding the baby I was not able to move him to get him to stop.
So did I ask for help?
No, of course not.
I just got irritated that one in-law was checking Facebook while the other one was reading something on an iPad.
Couldn't they see I needed help?
But I didn't ask… I just let it stew.
The next thing I know, my two year old is losing his balance and about to fall face first off the couch into some hard objects on the ground.
Still… nobody helped.
I quickly shifted the baby and caught my son.
Then my frustration boiled over and I stormed off.
I found my wife upstairs and I complained, “why are they even here if they're not doing anything?”
Super mature, right?
But still, I said nothing about how I felt or what I needed to the people that could actually do something about it.
A Better Way
In this story. There's a lot to learn about communication… about setting boundaries… about all kinds of different aspects.
But for today, I want to focus on the lesson of creating healthy expectations.
So let's go back to our first question… why do we set ourselves up for failure by creating unrealistic expectations?
One answer is because we act by default.
Our default expectations in any given situation are too often one extreme or the other. There is no peace found in either extreme.
The other reason is because we only consider outcomes based on what we think should happen or what we want to happen. We fail to incorporate the needs and the feelings of others involved.
These reasons have a common element… they are focused on the outcome. They are focused on the part of the equation that you cannot control.
So how do you manage expectations as a leader in your home?
You focus on your efforts and on your actions.
Real Leaders Focus on This
If you are focused on what you can control, then you will know you've truly done your part. And that puts you in a position to receive whatever the outcome happens to be.
Going back to my story, what could I have controlled?
I could have asked questions before my in laws arrived to get a better idea of their plans and how they were going to help. I also could have spoken up when I didn't understand why something was or was not being done.
And I could have communicated general needs with their stay, as well as specific needs associated with certain situations.
Now let's say I did all those things, and the outcomes were the same. Well, you might ask, what's the point? What's the point of those awkward conversations if the outcome is going to still be the same?
The point is, in the story of what actually happened… I viewed myself as the victim.
Leaders are not victims.
You are not a victim.
When we have a victim mentality, it forces us to see others as the villains. And that is the end of your ability to lead your home.
If you see yourself as the victim and your family members as villains, then you will never be able to properly lead your family.
In the second scenario, I have the potential to feel peace knowing that I did all I knew how to do at the time.
And because I'm not busy feeling like a victim, or villainizing my father and mother in law, I can instead focus on other actions I can take to increase my chances of success.
The Danger of Looking to the Outcome
Another example of how worrying about the outcome, rather than being present, can be found in biblical times.
When leaders of the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ, they had in their minds an idea of a political Savior. They were looking for someone that would rescue them from the Roman Empire.
So when Christ came as their spiritual Savior… who did not magically end their temporal struggles with the Roman Empire… they rejected him.
And as one ancient Prophet said, “blindness came by looking beyond the mark.”
So set your expectations on what you can control and you will find a greater ability to receive the miracles available to you and your family.
How You Can Apply This Today
As you've been listening, there's a story or an experience that came to your mind.
Or maybe a situation is coming to your mind right now where you want to lead better in your home, but you have yet to take action.
First, I want you to review in your mind, what it is that you're wanting to do to better lead your family.
Now write down a few key actions that you can take to increase the likelihood of success in that area.
As you do this… the what if questions may start popping into your mind…
“What if so and so doesn't respond?” … or “What if the conversation doesn't happen that way?”
As those things enter your mind, remind yourself that your only expectation is that you will do your part… and that you will do it imperfectly… just like Michael Jordan… just like Jim Thome and just like everybody else (except Jesus Christ) does things imperfectly.
Track what happens during the day and at the end of the day, ask yourself, “What can I adjust in my approach to increase my chances of success?”
Then repeat and keep moving forward.
This is the Way
Your ability to lead your family begins with letting go of perfection and creating healthy expectations for yourself and your family members.
Remember that focusing on the outcome causes blindness and makes you miss the mark.
Instead, focus on what you can control… the choices you make… the effort you put in… the way you get back up after making mistakes.
This is the path to becoming the leader your family needs you to be.
This is the path to breaking the cycle and creating a new legacy for your children.
PS – Remember that each Thursday at 9am Pacific I will be live on Facebook, @thejoepomeroy to answer questions, provide support, and cheer on your successes as you implement the material shared here.
So set a reminder and I'll see you this coming Thursday at 9am Pacific on Facebook @thejoepomeroy. See you then.