Express a Palpable Confidence
How we expect others to perform has a surprisingly oversized impact on how they actually perform. Leaders naturally develop expectations for how team members will perform on any given task or assignment. Unknowingly, these expectations influence how the leader treats these team members.
We speak differently, use different language, and offer different kinds of feedback to those we expect might underperform as opposed to those who we believe will excel. This treatment is felt in direct and indirect ways and becomes a driving force for motivation, aspiration, and the commitment to achieve.
In too many cases, the team member’s performance then serves to confirm the original expectation, and thus reinforce the treatment by the leader. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy and comes into play more often than many leaders realize.
The effects of self-fulfilling prophecies are compounded for leaders who form strong, negative, and unshakeable views of team members. When leaders land too firmly on a negative view of expected performance, they unwittingly limit what others achieve.
To combat this effect, the best leaders remain flexible in their view of people and optimistic about what they are capable of achieving. Seeing people as multi-dimensional and without hard limits as to what they might achieve, leaders project a confidence that is palpable to those who experience it.
This is what good leaders do: They ask people to stretch their skills and experience. Then, they expect those individuals will rise to the occasion.
This is what good leaders do not do: They avoid the temptation to throw team members into situations where they do not have the foundational skills to achieve.
The key is to always remember that the confidence we project in others has an almost invisible influence on the performance they deliver. You don’t need a crystal ball to understand that prophecy.
This explains why leadership in my 8000 person I.T. department would always kick off big projects with absurd expected completion dates. In my whole 34 year career I always wondered why they would repeatedly come up with these end dates that had no bearing on reality. It was a running joke to the rank and file and I personally think it damaged the credibility of our leadership.
Then there would be those projects where the worker bees would pull out all the stops, work a bunch of overtime, to make those absurd dates and we'd have a system go out riddled with problems. Or worse yet the project would get cancelled for various reasons even after putting in all that work. You go through a few of those situations in your career and you really start resenting management for such incompetence.
I get what you are saying with having high expectations. But on the flipside, those expectations must be grounded in some kind of reality. And to be fair, you do mention this in your posting. So my sentiment is not to take anything away from what you posted. I'm just pointing out the pitfalls of not setting those expectations carefully. I think too many leaders set crazy unrealistic goals with the thought that if they don't make the goal wildly optimistic that the rank and file will just sit on their butts and do nothing, not understanding the downside of doing so.