Don’t let an unspoken expectation trip you up

Don’t let an unspoken expectation trip you up

handling expectationsJorge hung up the phone and sat at his desk for a long time, staring out the window, seeing everything yet seeing nothing.

As he sat there, he replayed, over and over again, the conversation he’d just had with his business partner.

The call had been unexpectedly contentious.

His business partner accused him of three serious acts of wrong-doing. 

Those three acts were topics the two of them had never discussed

Jorge was shocked to learn his business partner wanted to be copied on every email he sent to prospective clients, viewed his participation in a local networking group as an under-handed way to get to know more people in the community, and saw Jorge’s popular blog as a way for Jorge to hog the limelight and shut him out.

Their photography business didn’t last to see its one-year anniversary.

Too many times I’ve seen unmet expectations derail projects, careers, and relationships.

Too many times, those expectations were unmet because they weren’t communicated. The other person was just expected you to know what they expected.

Ever found yourself in a situation where you were caught off guard by something someone assumed that you would know?

That discomfort or animosity can be avoided if we make the time and effort to set a few simple ground rules at the beginning of a project, assignment or work partnership.

5 ways to set expectations

1) Determine who will do what. 

When we define roles and responsibilities early on, everyone knows their role. When new duties arise, make it a point to assign ownership for completion.

2) Establish how you’ll communicate.

The method for communicating, be it through email, text messages, in-person meetings, phone calls, etc., matters less than understanding each other’s preferences and taking them into account as much as possible. When generational differences are a factor, this step is crucial.

3) Connect to check in.

Touch base periodically to assess if things are on track or not. If adjustments are needed, identify who will make them. Flag potential problems and/or issues early – no one likes to be surprised.

4) Be curious.

Explore styles, interests, likes, dislikes, goals, etc. before starting the partnership. If differences do exist (and they will), assess whether ot not they can be tolerated. Know if those involved are interested in working through problems or if playing the blame game is the default position.

5) Define what success will look like.

Be specific in detailing what outcomes are expected and how you’ll work together to achieve them. Figure out if the end game between those involved is competition or collaboration. Egos can be insurmountable barriers to work completion, so it’s best to know this ahead of time.

Unhappiness lies in that gap between our talents and our expectations. ~Sebastian Horsley, artist

We all have expectations of ourselves and others. To avoid disappointment, anger, frustration, and a whole host of other ugly outcomes, share those expectations early and often.

What other advice do you have for Jorge?

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3 crucial leadership connections

3 crucial leadership connections

connections and self-absorptionDoes your life and work schedule resemble the landing strip at O’Hare or LaGuardia airports—so much incoming activity that there’s no time for anything else?

No time to think or reflect or connect?

(Sometimes, in my first act of life, there was hardly time to go to the bathroom!)

In today’s crazy busy world we connect with technology frequently, spending lots of time interacting with a device (Crackberry, anyone?).

Yet it’s connecting with real people that brings genuine success and satisfaction to our personal and professional lives.

Making those “people” connections requires us being thoughtful in seeing, and seizing, the opportunities to “only connect” as E.M. Forester says.

You’re 1/12 into a new year.

Are you as connected with others as you’d like to be?

If not, use this three-pronged approach as your guide to making the other 11/12 of the year rich with quality leadership connections.

Connect with you

If your personal reservoir is empty, there isn’t much to share with others. Re-engage with what’s important to you. Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s work with emotional intelligence is a helpful place to start:

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.

Getting in touch with what we fail to notice—about ourselves and others—is a crucial first step to establishing powerful connections.

  • What’s my personal and professional north, and am I still on track?
  • What worthwhile things have I done today that I will continue doing?
  • Whose life did I touch today and help make it better?
  • What one thing, big or small, did I do today to renew my energy and increase my knowledge and/or skills?

Connect with those around you

Make the time – or schedule it if that works for you – so you’re spending five quality minutes with a direct report, colleague, client, vendor, assistant, the barista who makes your daily latte, and so on. Establishing relationships with those around you at work – at every level within the organization and externally as well – is a make-or-break element for career success.

  • Ask “how are you doing today?” Then really listen to the answer and ask follow-up questions.
  • Say thank you. Throw in a smile for good measure.
  • Celebrate an accomplishment. Chocolate is one of the four food groups!
  • Ask them about sports, their kids, a favorite TV show, etc. Explore, discover and share interests to build a bond.

Connect with your boss

Some bosses are the scourge of the earth, others just delightful. Either way, engage him or her in a meaningful exchange. Your boss can propel your career to new heights or hold you back behind your back. Aim for the propelling part.

  • Ask  if there’s some way you can help out.
  • Ask him about his family or favorite book so you can establish some common ground and shared interests.
  • Ask her where she sees her career going and what will help her succeed.

Make making meaningful connections a goal, a habit, a way of life!

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It’s all about the numbers, silly goose

It’s all about the numbers, silly goose


it's all about the numbersMy bad for getting behind in responding to my Twitter follow back messages, yet what an enlightening experience that turned out to be.

A number of people who had followed me on Twitter had unfollowed me—and a gazillion others—by the time I reached their Twitter home page to follow them.

Their follower and following ratios were quite lopsided. They were following a small handful of people (normally in the two-digit range), yet had numbers in the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people who were following them.

Hmmm,  how interesting.

While I wonder whether or not they care enough to be interested, here’s the story their actions tell me.

  • Others are simply a means to achieve my ends. I’ll fake some interest in you by following you but all I really want is you following me to boost my numbers.
  • Don’t expect any reciprocity from me ‘cuz it’s all about me. I’m not gonna follow you, yet I know you’ll be watching your Twitter stream to see what I have to say.
  • Superficial appearances are important. My follower/following numbers tell my elite story. What else is there to say?
  • Who wants real connection anyway? It’s messy. Takes time. Might require an adult conversation from time-to-time.

I know I’m climbing the ladder of inference here, drawing conclusions that are based on my perception of reality. If you’re one of those folks I’m talking about here, do enlighten me! I’d love to know the reasons behind all the work you do to build a following and then drop them.

LeadBIG tip: be mindful of the stories your actions create in the minds and hearts of those around you. And, if you’ve created a story as I have, be mindful it’s your story: you wrote it based on your perception and view of point which might be correct…or dead wrong.

What’s your story?

Image source:  morgueFile





Curious connections:  cheshire cats, GPS, and purpose

Curious connections: cheshire cats, GPS, and purpose


Rose “fell” into her PR career right after college, taking a temporary job to tide her over. That job lasted ten years.

While Rose had enjoyed her job, she always felt like something better was out there, that she was missing something. But until her layoff, she never hit the “pause button of life” long enough to evaluate the direction of her professional or personal life.

Most successful businesses have a mission statement describing their purpose along with a business plan defining what they do.

What works well for businesses also works well for individuals, especially if you’re in a career transition like Rose or are simply seeking a new direction. 

Creating your personal life plan helps you focus on where you are, where you want to be and how you’ll get there. It’s a bit like having your very own personal GPS for the personal and professional direction you’ll take.

“Writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behavior with your beliefs.” ~Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The process of figuring out what you want to do purposefully with your life and mapping out accompanying goals is simple yet complex. 

The steps involved are straightforward.

The complexity arises from first deciding to be purposeful rather than random; and then doing all the heavy lifting of identifying your interests and goals, letting go of things getting in the way and finally finding a complementary career, volunteer work, and hobbies, etc., to keep your actions in alignment with your purpose.

Sometimes you have to “let go” to let other things “come in.”


Turning on your personal GPS

1) Define what you do well, like to do and makes you feel purposeful.

Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose, believes that “the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”

2) Identify what you want to accomplish, both personally and professionally, and write it down.

There’s nothing like putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard to create clarity. Think of this as your personal mission statement. Here’s an example from Google that illustrates mission statement content: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” A company without a mission statement has little clarity on what it will do; the same is true for individuals.

3) List what you need to start doing, stop doing and continue doing.  

This real benefit-producing step of the process requires honest and thorough self-assessment. Rush University Medical Center, a teaching and research hospital in Chicago, released a study on aging and activity in 2009. According to Patricia Boyle, neuropsychologist and assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush, “If you find purpose in life, if you find your life is meaningful, and if you have goal-directed behavior, you are likely to live longer.”

4) Define your goals and make an action plan. 

It’s only when we combine our dreams with action that we realize successful outcomes. Thinking, hoping and visualizing are helpful exercises to shape your focus yet are insufficient on their own to produce results. Gotta make things happen!

5) Commit to action, learning, failing and trying again.

Hold yourself accountable to taking small steps every single day, whether you want to or not. (The siren song of procrastination plays loudly some days). Expect to take a misstep or two, that’s all part of it. Give yourself permission to fail; learn from those failures and move on. Celebrate your successes: throw a party, dance on the beach, eat chocolate, watch a sunset, send yourself a gift.

Having a plan creates direction.

Direction produces focus.

Focus leads to productivity.

Productivity makes results. 

Results create confidence and success.


What other steps should be on this list?

Image source:  morgueFile




Strategic networking, relationships, and connecting

Strategic networking, relationships, and connecting


Hi, let me introduce myself since we haven’t met or connected before. I’m Frank Doe, and I just wrote a great book, Leadership Strategies for Connected Success.

I saw your website and know you’re the perfect person to read my book. I want you to write a review about it on your blog and on Amazon, too. You seem to know about leadership so your help will be important to me.

I’d also like for you to tweet about it, too, since I see you tweet a lot. Thanks for helping me out.


Have you ever received a request like this one?

I just did and believe it’s networking gone wrong. effective networking

Am I wrong in feeling this way???

I love to read new books, help people and make a positive difference. However, this style of asking feels like an order a demanding boss would give rather than the first steps in establishing a relationship.

I’m of the school of thought that the purpose of business networking is developing a mutually advantageous relationship with other business people. There’s both an art and a science to getting it right.

What effective networking is

Effective networking is two-way, so both parties engage, share and assist each other. As you work to build your network, start out by giving – share information that may be of value, send a note of praise and/or congratulations or comment on someone’s blog post.

I like to define networking as cultivating mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships. ~Bob Burg, co-author The Go Giver

Effective networking is…Building connection

Maybe I’m old-fashioned or out of touch in wanting a connection. Especially so when someone is asking you to read a 300-page book. Connection is about reciprocity, and this request felt totally one-sided.

Effective networking is…Listening intently and authentically

Rapport starts when you ask someone what they do or what they think, and then couple that inquiry with eye contact and active listening to the response. I dislike it when I’m at a business function speaking to a new acquaintance and see their eyes continuing to scan the room for someone else who might be a better contact. Annoying!

Effective networking is…Maintaining the connection.

Exchanging business cards or that first online ‘hello’ is just the beginning of the networking process. Regular outreach is important for nurturing the connection. Call, write or send emails periodically to stay in touch.

Effective networking is…Extending the breadth and depth of your network, appropriately so

Outreach possibilities for forging an effective business network are endless.

  1. Research professional associations related to your current industry or prospective ones.
  2. Attend and actively participate in meetings, gatherings, conferences, etc. where you can meet a wide variety of people. You never know who can provide your next referral, lead or job prospect.
  3. Share your expertise and insights by joining an online discussion group or by participating in social media. It’s a great way to meet people, refine your online communication skills and answer people’s inquiries to showcase how you can bring value to them.
  4. Volunteering is an excellent venue to both “do good” and to meet people.

Effective networking is…Being strategic in building your network

To ensure that you are getting the right mix of relationships and exposure, include:

  • Family and friends – a given!
  • People with a large network of their own and who are willing to introduce you to their contacts
  • People will who join you in endeavors or spreading your message
  • Folks who believe in, and will endorse, you and what you do
  • Subject matter authorities in your field whose opinion is widely respected

The way of the world is meeting people through other people. ~Robert Kerrigan

What say you?

What’s the best way to build a thoughtful network that works for everyone involved?

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Are you willing to be a curious leader?

Are you willing to be a curious leader?

be curious“Hello, Jane Perdue speaking.” (I had a boss early in my career who required us to answer our phones this way. The habit stuck.)

“Is Jane Perdue there?”

This is she. How may I help you?”

“I want to speak with Jane Perdue.” (Tone of voice is annoyed and demanding)

“This is she. How can I help?”

“You’re Jane Perdue? Really? I didn’t hear you say Jane Perdue.”

“Really and truly! You have Jane Perdue on the line. And you are…?”

“Are you sure you’re Jane Perdue?” (Tone = no way, quit joking)

“I’m absolutely sure. How can I help you?”

“Well, if you’re really Jane Perdue…”

** big sigh **

Power of first impressions

First impressions are so important and so tricky.

Important on the sending end because you want to make a good one. Tricky on the receiving end because you don’t want to be judgmental and wrong. Which I nearly was.

My first impression of the caller wasn’t favorable—low listening skills, low receptivity, a little combative, may be even a little haughty.  Would it have been easy to conclude that my initial assessment was accurate? Yes, absolutely. Would it have been right? Not in the slightest.

Do what you gotta do to be curious

And that’s…

Challenge assumptions.

Did I have enough information to draw a viable conclusion?  Not even close. What came across as haughtiness was incredulity that I had answered my own phone.

Gather more data points.

One brief encounter may not be indicative of a pattern of behavior. The caller admitted to not listening at the beginning.  His expectation was that someone would answer my phone for me, so he had tuned out.

Look for context.

Do you know enough about the background, environment, setting, situation, etc. to have a full picture of the facts? The caller’s context was that he would have to go through an assistant to reach me. I expected him to be fully present in the moment.

Are you making the “facts” fit the story?

I loved the boss who taught me this way of answering the phone as a way of gathering insights into how well someone listened. Yet his rationale imprinted a distinct point of view in my mind about a caller’s listening abilities which is something I now must need to be perpetually mindful of.

What other counsel would you offer for being a curious leader instead of a judgmental one?

Image source before quote:  Gratisography