“My boss’s capacity for work is extraordinary.  But she seems to think that’s normal and expects us all to function in the same way.”

It’s easy to fall into this trap as a leader, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this in my early leadership career, not realizing my energy and capacity for work wasn’t the same for everyone.

The reality is people do have different thresholds and capacity for work and as a leader you need to be mindful of transferring your own ways of working onto others.

We aren’t talking about tolerating loafers here or allowing people to bring less than their best, we are talking about having reasonable expectations and demands on roles and incumbents.

Here’s some signs your unrealistic expectations (for yourself as well as others) may be causing problems for your team:

  1. You constantly feel like people aren’t working hard enough, or at the level you want them to.
  2. When it’s time for someone to act up in your role, there’s a lack of willing takers. (Be warned, modelling unrealistic expectations in your role is a sure-fire way to kill succession planning efforts.)
  3. Your team are exhausted, working extra hours and still feel like they’re not doing enough or meeting your expectations.
  4. There’s fear permeating and team members sniping at (and about) each other. Because if you’re not happy, they’d rather you focus on one of their peers than on them (this isn’t quite as Machiavellian as it sounds, rather normal unconscious human behaviour in the circumstances – aka survival mode).

What to do if you’re worried this is you:

Take a moment and reflect on your career, then on these questions:

  1. Have you ever been told your work pace or productivity is impressive?
  2. Have you noticed your ability to produce/complete/tolerate work is above your peers?
  3. Have you been promoted based on your ability to “get stuff done”?
  4. Do you work at your best when you’re under pressure?
  5. Do you love the feeling of completion/achieving tasks? (As in ‘the fuels you to do more/obsessive’ feeling, not just the sense of relief we all get).
  6. Have you ever had feedback from your team or those around you that your expectations may be unreasonable?
  7. Have you ever had to pull people up on performance because you feel they are not getting enough done?
  8. Do you use work as a distraction?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions it could be that your expectations are unrealistic.  Whilst setting stretch goals and targets and driving high performance is healthy and a key part of leadership, permanent unrealistic expectations are less healthy and may not be serving you, your team or the organization well.

If you want to chat about this and explore if your unrealistic /expectations may be getting in the way of your own and others success, please reach out.

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner
E: tanya@tanyaheaneyvoogt.com

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