Trusting Promises or Expectations

Nowhere is trust more important than on our roads. I was recently caught in a line of cars. As we approached some traffic signals they turned red. Being a little way back there was no question that I would stop, however I was amazed at the number of cars that continued to drive through the now red light. Fortunately the cars crossing the intersection didn’t respond immediately to their green light. It had never occurred to me that red lights were merely a suggestion!

My reading of the Connecticut Driver Handbook is quite clear on the matter and leads me to expect that anyone who has passed the driver’s test has agreed to comply with the rules. However expectations can be dangerous – and in this situation could be fatal.

Leaders rely on their staff to make and keep promises (commitments) in order to achieve the larger goals of the organization. However if leaders rely on their expectations they will surely be disappointed. Each promise requires clear agreement with the performer and that can only happen if both they and the leader have agreed what success will look like. Expecting everything to turn out well is like expecting a teenager to keep their room tidy – it needs to be spelled out!

Unfortunately many leaders don’t take the time needed and become disappointed with the results. In addition their staff become frustrated and resigned at not being able to satisfy the boss. Not a good recipe for building trust. Are you clear on what you need from your colleagues or are you leaving them to guess what’s on your mind? I can’t even begin to guess what is on my fellow drivers’ minds – especially as they navigate traffic signals!