noun. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case; another term for expected value (a predicted value of a variable, calculated as the sum of all possible values each multiplied by the probability of its occurrence).
I have always had high expectations of myself and others, in my professional and my personal life. It comes from the simple family rules and values my parents instilled in us as children, and it also comes from the work ethic they established as self-employed small business owners.
For 2 decades, working in the school system I operated within the processes and systems of schools. I knew how to set and maintain expectations for students around learning, behaviour, homework, uniform and standards. Furthermore, I knew how to reward and sanction those expectations.
I knew how to set and maintain expectations for staff around performance, productivity and professionalism. I knew how to show appreciation, how to support and challenge, and how to be a critical friend.
I knew how to set and maintain expectations for parents and carers around working with us and supporting their child to attend, to behave, to learn and to be a positive contribution to the school community. I knew how to communicate with stakeholders and how to develop relationships.
I didn’t realise how institutionalised I was until I left headship and started working for myself. Suddenly everything I knew how to do seemed different and how I knew how to be was being tested and needed to evolve.
I am now in charge of my time, my energy, my diary, my workflow. I can say Yes and I can say No to what and whom I like.
I have done a lot of work on my boundaries and how accessible I am over the last few years and I push back when I get messages about work on social media and messages out of hours on whatsapp. My standard response is “Lovely to hear from you, please can you email me and I will check my diary and respond in working hours”. If I don’t make my expectations clear around communication then things get messy and blurry very quickly, people also expect me to at their disposal 24/7.
Setting and reinforcing expectations with professional contacts has been a work in progress over the last year of working independently. It is nuanced when the professional relationship overlaps with personal contacts as friends are often the ones who cross the boundary of asking me work questions and favours in the evenings and weekends via whatsapp when I am trying to decompress.
I manage different relationships and stakeholders now and here are some of my reflections:
With coachees – being clear in the contracting phase of the relationship established how we will interact, how often we will communicate, how much challenge and support they want is really important when you are coaching someone. I have been coached by different people who have managed this in different ways so I have amalgamated some of their strategies to create my style of doing this.
With clients – I have spent hours in meetings with prospective clients, listening and consulting, then submitting proposals. I am always staggered at how few then acknowledge the time and energy this has taken and ignore the proposal for weeks and months. For the clients who do commit, being clear on deadlines, time frames, meeting commitments and payment is key, as is clarifying the expectations of the cancellation policy.
With associates – this has been the hardest one to navigate as I am used to working with people who I am senior to, who I line manage and performance manage, who I am developing and holding to account. Working with other independent people who work in different ways and aligning them has been a learning curve. I have reflected a lot on who I work well with and why this is. I have a tight inner circle of people who I collaborate regularly with, and our styles compliment each other as we bring out the best of each other.
With partners – another interesting dynamic, we have 5 named partners for Diverse Educators and we agreed the commitment at the start of this academic year. I have recently held review meetings with each of them to get feedback on whether their expectations have been met, for me partnership is a mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationship, a collaboration. Each organisation has had their own way of supporting us and we are reviewing if these partnerships will be extended into another academic year.
With volunteers – I still do a lot of pro bono work and I collaborate with a lot of people who gift their time, energy and expertise very generously. Co-editing the #DiverseEd book is an example of this. My project management skills have kicked in and I have been the admin for the last year coordinating the comms, the meetings, the deadlines – we have had a tight timeline to work within but our team of 110 people are all in full-time employment so balancing expectations during school lockdown
I have a large and varied group of friends but they all know that with me what they see is what they get. They also know if they want an honest answer or some support/advice that I am always there for them.
I had some therapy sessions at the start of the year as we were having some post lockdown family dramas and one of the things my therapist worked with me on is meeting people 50:50 and holding myself back from going 70:30 which is my natural tendency. Over-compensating and making allowances for others have been my Achille’s heel at times in my relationships – they are things I reflect on and try to reframe.
I think sometimes it is harder to be clear on expectations in personal relationships than it is in professional relationships as there is more nuance. Especially if the friendship is a historic one and it has not evolved as each individual has.
I have some relationships that have served me for nearly 4 decades, but I also have friendships that have naturally fizzled out. During lockdown a number of old contacts got back in touch, which was lovely, but virtual reconnection is different to physical reconnection.
The last year has been an opportunity to reflect on who and what brings us joy, who and what serves us, who and what we want to amplify in our lives. It has also been an opportunity to realign our expectations of ourselves and others.
It has taken me a month to process and write this piece as I reflected on my expectations of myself and others, along with the expectations others have of me. I need to process my thoughts before I could write them down and articulate them. So my final thoughts are my expectations of myself and others moving forwards.
Some of my expectations of myself:
- Be values-led – I live my values and operate in an ethical way
- Be purposeful – I make sure what I do is aligned with my why
- Be efficient – I manage my time and energy well
- Be effective – I am clear on how I will add value and have impact
- Be supportive – I empower others to be REAL (resilient, empowered, authentic leaders)
- Be challenging – I help others to grow and learn
Some of my expectations of others:
- Be honest – I am a candid person and expect openness from others
- Be loyal – I have people’s backs and I expect them to have mine too
- Be trustworthy – I am trusted with a lot of confidential information and expect others to be discrete too
- Be reliable – I do what I say I will do and expect others to do the same
- Be responsive – I am a communicator and I try to acknowledge all comms in good time
- Be punctual – I strive to be on time as it shows respect and I expect this from others