Positively Violate Expectations
Our experience with leaders creates strong expectations as to what they will do, how they will do it, and where and when they will do it. We get very comfortable with the common choices leaders make and value the predictability we find in their consistency. When leaders do the unexpected, it shakes people up — sometimes in a good way.
Any time a leader positively violates expectations, it stops us in our tracks and makes us examine our assumptions. We spend more time thinking about what is going on. We consider the leader’s messages and advocacy more openly and become more easily persuaded by them. All because a leader does the unexpected in a manner we deem positive.
The best leaders know this and occasionally throw a curveball at those they lead. They may offer an unexpected reward, make a counterargument not in their favor, throw away the slide deck to create a conversation, give thanks to those behind the scenes, meet in an unusual setting or location, or become emphatic over a small team accomplishment. The list goes on and on.
Disrupting what others expect of us in a positive way keeps everyone on their toes and asks others to reexamine how they view our arguments and messages. Doing this too often makes people nervous and puts them on edge. But never doing the unexpected means missing a huge opportunity to reset how people think.
How will you do the unexpected today to create a difference?
A great book that exemplifies this technique is "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy." This book details how a captain's positive, empowering, and somewhat unorthodox management techniques took an Arleigh Burke destroyer that ranked last in its class to being the highest-ranked ship in its class.