“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

Recent Blogs

The Advantages of Playing to Your Strengths

It is a cliché to ‘Know your strengths’. We see it emblazoned across LinkedIn platforms, job advertisements, newsletters and other media. Leaders use it. Sports coaches scream, ‘Play to your strengths’, and we all smile and nod as though we know what they are talking...

Why is change so hard?

I received an email recently from someone I don’t know very well directing me to do something.  Not asking, but telling.  It was curt and commanding and it made me bristle.  It also made me dig my heals in and not want to do what I was being asked.  There were no...

Seven Ways to Model Safe & Effective Leadership

Are you a safe and effective leader? Safe and Effective Leaders have a dual focus on people and outcomes.  They understand that the two have a symbiotic relationship and the needs of both must be met. Safe and Effective Leaders step up to the plate to have those...

Why Having an ‘Open Door Policy’ Isn’t Always a Good Thing – Rafael’s Story

Rafael was the school principal of a large metropolitan primary school.    Every day Rafael would have a stream of students, parents, teachers and support staff entering his office for queries, guidance or to let off steam.   He prided himself on his “open door...

Wellbeing Washing; All Talk, No Action

I’m sure there’s a group of creatives in a room somewhere coming up with snappy phrases for modern workplace woes - quiet quitting, well-being washing etc etc... However we want to label it, this post below by Adam Morris speaks to the crux of the matter in that if we...

“I’m struggling with my workload. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

I’m struggling with my workload. When I raised concerns with my manager they said “That’s just the job. We’re all busy.”  What can I do? There’s often a waterfall effect taking place in workplaces in regard to workload.  Chances are your manager is also struggling...

“I have a team member who keeps telling me they’re bored. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

“I have one team member who keeps telling me they’re bored.  They still have plenty on their plate and I don’t want to give them anything more as I’m worried I’ll overload them.  What can I do?” Our ideal state of work utilisation, generally speaking, is “active”....

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out!

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out! We've all heard phrases such as 'master your role' or 'I've mastered my job', but what does 'mastery' really mean and how is it linked to improved job satisfaction? Mastery is a component of good work...

Anticipatory Grief & Emotional Turmoil of Supporting Ageing Parents

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organisation this day is for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.  In recognition of the spirit of this day and particularly in the remaining...

Can A.I. Help Leaders Support Team Mental Wellbeing?

Can A.I Help Leaders Support Team Mental Wellbeing? I can't quite believe I’m writing about A.I.  I feel like I’ve only just established a semi harmonious relationship with Siri. But it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge this “thing” that whilst I’m sure has...