to the 7 Paths of ThrivingOrganizations e-letter
On mistakes and unmet expectations
To thrive, organizations and leaders need to deal with two facts of life. Humans make mistakes. And humans have unmet expectations in their relationships.
Here’s an example of a mistake. After I led my first capital campaign meeting with volunteers my mentor asked me if I had an agenda for the meeting. “No,” I said. I knew in my head what I needed to accomplish in the meeting.
“That’s a mistake,” he said. “You always need to have a printed agenda for meetings with volunteers.” He pointed out that an agenda makes it possible for those in the meeting to see at a glance what needs to be accomplished and to gauge progress during the meeting.
I never made that mistake again.
Here’s an example of an unmet expectation. When Sarah, my wife, is home I expect her to make lunch. She enjoys cooking and I enjoy eating her food. It’s been a winning combination in our 38 years of marriage. For 36 years when noon rolled around and, if she was home, she made me lunch.
Then a few years ago she began working the evening shift and I began to stay up later to spend time with her when she came home from work. As a consequence I ate breakfast later.
Then I began to notice that it was early afternoon and I was hungry and Sarah hadn’t made lunch. This is an unmet expectation.
We talked about it and I discovered a new piece of information. She no longer knew when I would be ready for lunch. Since I was eating breakfast a 9:00 or 10:00, she could no longer count on me being hungry at noon.
We made a simple change in our routine. I would let her know when I was ready for lunch.
Recently I was drafting an agreement for Evergreen Leaders working with associates and I decided to think through how we could address the inevitable mistakes and unmet expectations that will occur between Evergreen Leaders, Associates, and Clients.
In the draft I included three simple rules for handling mistakes and missed expectations:
- No dodging mistakes. When we make a mistake, let’s humbly admit it, which builds trust.
- Speak up. In any relationship there will be expectations that are not met. Speak to the person who is not meeting your expectations. Expect your colleagues to speak to you when you do not meet their expectations. Listen to each other and take in new information which builds trust.
- Drop persistent complaints. Grudges are a drag on a relationship while forgiveness frees and builds trust.
I don’t know that these three rules are perfect and we’ll likely improve them over time; however, including them in the agreement will make it possible for us to have a common language for dealing with mistakes and unmet expectations.
Wisdom for the week: Talking about unmet expectations can lead to new ways of meeting expectations.