Story Construction

What Do You Expect?

July 15, 2012

My oldest son, Jack, is heading off to Luther College this fall to extend his competitive running career and get an education while doing so. As he eagerly approaches this next season of life, my wife and I are discussing the expectations we have regarding this experience.

So far, we’ve talked about things like financial contribution toward expenses, academic performance, part-time employment, internships, extracurricular activities and how we can best help our son navigate his way toward a future that will bring him joy and challenge. But there are plenty of unanswered questions.

We’re wondering what will motivate Jack throughout his college experience and whether he’ll continue to be as ambitious in his pursuits as he has always been. We’re not sure how pushing and encouraging a child look different at this stage of life, or how much we can plan for and how much we need to simply take as it comes. Yet, even as Ann and I work through these concerns, we’re aware a key component has been missing from our conversation: Jack. Although he has been the object of our discussion, Jack has been awkwardly absent.

To fix that and make sure we all have a clear and common set of expectations, we’ll be having a family meeting soon. We know what we expect of Jack will likely be different than what we’ll expect of his siblings in a few years when they approach college; after all, they’re different people who deserve a similar type of discussion with the likelihood of different outcomes. Similarly, we understand that what Jack needs and expects of us as parents will be different than what his sister and brother will expect.

On a professional level, I can easily apply this line of thinking to Story’s interactions with subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers and clients. In order to understand what someone expects from our company as a business partner and ensure they know what we expect of them, it’s necessary to develop a common set of expectations we can use to assess whether we’re winning or losing in our relationships. The same is true with our employees. We have annual reviews that identify performance expectations, but do we revisit them often enough? Are they as useful as we need for them to be to really make progress on our common goals? And who should be the one leading the discussion – the supervisor or the supervisee?

In these situations, I believe it’s always best to play offense. Regardless of where you stand in the relationship, it’s important to initiate the discussion to create a common set of expectations that are unique to the situation, supported by the people involved and communicated properly. Waiting for someone else to do it or just assuming that everyone knows what to expect will not likely lead to the most productive outcome.

So, we’re going to play offense with Jack. He deserves it and we do, too.

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