“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” Dennis Wholey

Everyone has expectations. We expect people to treat us a certain way. As leaders we expect people to perform well and behave well. If you are a leader, it is your job to be powerful. If you're up to it, you have the potential to increase the well-being for yourself and for others by communicating clear expectations.

Expectations are not demands. If you demand that people act in certain ways you will receive plenty of resistance. When you push on people, they push back. Expectations are realistic boundaries and standards that we ask of others. The woman who is abused by her partner has low expectations. She doesn't value herself enough to expect her partner to treat her with respect. She does not know her own power. She thinks he has all the power, and because she thinks that way, he does have the power. Power dynamics are most often not about size and strength. I remember seeing a five foot one inch woman reading her six foot six husband the riot act in a parking lot once. He was definitely intimidated.

Power comes from within. Knowing what you want, and expressing it confidently and clearly is powerful. Again, this isn't demanding. If you are a leader in a workplace, what do you want? What is the mission of your team? What standards do you expect from them? Get clear in your own mind. Make sure that you, yourself are meeting the expectations you have of others. When you are in alignment, then you can confidently and clearly express what you expect.

A manager I coached came up with some expectations during one of our sessions. He decided to meet with his department every Monday morning and talk about expectations. He saw a lot of eye rolling and heard a lot of grumbling that first meeting. He expressed his expectations clearly. Now, months later, he still meets with his staff every Monday, and he still talks about expectations. It only took a few meetings for them to get engaged in the conversation. Another manager I know has an informal, optional meeting every morning for about five minutes. He and his staff have developed a set of "I will..." statements. (Example: "I will provide direct, open, and honest communication.") They talk about examples of behaviors they have observed in each other that align with those statements. Expectations should not be spoken once and then forgotten. People must see your expectations in action daily.

A few months back I worked with an organization that had quite a bit of inappropriate behavior. When I asked the manager about his expectations I found that he had none. He thought that people would just do the right thing and he shouldn't have to tell them. In this situation the manager had no expectations for himself either. He did not tell people what he expected and he did not serve as an example for what he expected. The trouble was, he didn't know what he expected. I sat down with one of his very competent, but sometimes inappropriately acting employees and set some of my own expectations. I stated, "Jack, (not his real name) it isn't okay to refer to your coworker as 'dumb-ass!' It's not acceptable. Use his name." Once I saw that he agreed with me, I then helped him to solve the problem that had led to the name calling in the first place.

Communicating expectations is important in all aspects of life. My dentist knows my expectations. He makes recommendations and I decide what to do. I expect the doctor to give me all the options so I can decide what to do. I expect clients to behave in ways that are functional and respectful. I expect my coaching clients to take full responsibility for their behaviors. I have the power. If they don't want to accept responsibility, I will walk away. Yes, it costs me money, but unless I am willing to walk away, my expectation would have no power behind it.

If you are unhappy at work, or unhappy in a relationship, odds are you have not stepped up and clarified your expectations. For many this is an issue of self esteem. If self esteem is low, than expectations are usually low. This is an illusion, because poor self esteem is an illusion. It is an emotion and emotions are created by thoughts. If you are feeling you don't have the right to clarify boundaries or expectations, you can stop yourself and ask: "Why would I want to think that way? Do I really want to play small?" Next, straighten up your posture and ask how you would think and act if you were a confident person who valued your self. Change your body language to reflect that thought. This is called "finding your voice."

There is a powerful voice inside you that wants to be heard and to express its influence. Of course playing it small has its payoffs--you can attract sympathy. You can avoid criticism. You can be a victim. You can second guess people who do speak up. None of these payoffs compare to what you receive when you find your voice. When you find your voice people know who you are. You quite often get what you want because you have the courage to ask for it. People think twice before crossing you because they know you are a force to be reckoned with. Many of your inner conflicts dissolve because your behavior is now in alignment with what you want. Holding back and pretending are painful actions. Yes, more people will criticize you. You have to teach yourself not to take it personally. Do care deeply about others, but don't care what they think about you. As Terry Cole Whitacker said with the title of her best selling book: "What you think of me is none of my business."

Everyone isn't going to automatically meet your expectations. You have to communicate them. When expectations are not met, don't act like a victim. Be clear. Give feedback. In any situation, ask yourself what you want to come of it. Then speak and act in ways that align with what you want. Find your voice. Don't act like you are inconveniencing someone when you express an expectation. Know the difference between an expectation and a request. "I expect you to be my friend" is an inappropriate expectation. It is a request. "If we are to be friends, I expect you to speak well of me to others." This is an appropriate expectation. Clarify your expectations and seek to understand the expectations of others.

"We teach people how to treat us. Own, rather than complain about how people treat you." Dr. Phil McGraw

"If you don't ever say ‘No’, people will always assume your ‘Yes’. Then they won't even ask. They’ll just do it.” Paraphrased from Peter Block.

Author's Bio: 

William Frank Diedrich is a speaker, executive coach, and the author of three books, including Beyond Blaming. Check out his books and his CD, The Leaders' Edge, at http://noblaming.com and http://intelligentspirit.com .