The Still Space Podcast #26 - Know the Difference Between Goals and Expectations
Executive Coach Mary Lee Gannon
Get her free Career Plan at www.MaryLeeGannon.com
Corporations calculate success by metrics – return on investment, productivity, key performance indicators, cost savings, balance sheets, cash flow, retention, number of goods sold, quality metrics, speed to market, profit margins. Goals are created in the aggregate of these measurements. Performance at work is tied to goals. Goals are always measurable. If it isn’t measurable, it is only a notion, not a goal.
If something you do fails, that does not make you a failure. If something you do succeeds, that does not make you a success. You are a success just by being alive. We’re all walking down the same road trying to figure out life together.
When a corporation doesn’t place the same value on its people as it does on its metrics often employees get sucked into believing that their personal worth is tied to the goal. And if they fail to meet the goal, they are a personal failure. There could be many circumstances that affect the realization of goals – resources, team culture, time, talent, a crisis, market share, economy, competition. Yet individuals often lay expectations on top of goals, leading to despair. I am expected to hit the goal or I won’t fit in here. If I don’t meet the goal I won’t advance. I might get terminated if I don’t get it done. I’m either good or bad.
Know the difference between goals and expectations so you can embrace the goals and release the expectations. Goals are assigned metrics of mastery that are essential for success in business and many aspects of life. Expectations are the binary assumptions we attach to goals that tie our personal worth to outcomes. We will meet budget is a goal. If we don’t meet budget, I am a loser and if we do, I will advance are expectations. Expectations don’t allow room for innovation. They are based in assumptions.
Here is a common occurrence…You expect to feel personal worth or get something based on a goal outcome that is somewhat out of your control. When the expectation is not met, you personalize it as rejection. And although on the surface you are angry or sad, deep down you wonder if there is something wrong with you – that you don’t deserve fulfillment. You either belong on the team or in the leadership position or not based on an outcome. This assumption is flawed and kills fulfillment, careers, happiness and the vulnerability necessary for personal development.
Personal growth is not about ticking off goals, though knowing what to measure is vital. It’s a journey of broadening, deepening, creating memories, deep connections, vivid experiences, and expanding rather than just improving and reaching metrics. About growing out not just up. Journeyers choose to stop wayfaring by foot and expand with new experience, growth experiences, and a passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it especially when it’s not going well.
Expectations are the coverings we lay over our ego when we feel uncomfortable. They represent a wanting or longing or grasping for something that is out of our control to feel better about ourselves. When the expectation isn’t met we lay excuses over the expectation – more coverings over ego. We desperately want to have a better relationship with a loved one and feel let down when they do not reciprocate our efforts to reach out so we give up trying to connect. We long for romantic love and when we don’t get it we give up on love all together because it never comes our way. We keep asking for a promotion and getting turned down so we blame the organization.
Peel back the coverings to allow the ego to be raw. Expose what is underneath. Understand what you are trying to protect yourself from. Unpack it.
If the goal is to have a better relationship with a loved one, how might you practice self-control to become a better listener? If the goal is to find romantic love, you might reflect on what you want, what are you attracting and what do you bring to a relationship? If the goal is to get a promotion, how are you positioning your signature strengths, value proposition and measurable accomplishments with influencers?
There is always a way to peace and mastery through mindful self-awareness. Expecting what we think we desire is not the way. Expectations lead to disappointment. A higher level of consciousness and life mastery are the way to open yourself to understanding your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Goals lead to action. Reflection leads to openness and personal growth. Love of self and others is the way.
I never dreamed of being a CEO. My life goals were to be a mom, have a loving family and to spend time at my favorite place – the beach. Then my marriage fell apart. Everything I ever wanted blew up in my face. I knew how to set goals and achieve them. I’m good at that. That’s how I made my way, quickly, to the C-suite. What I had to learn was how to set aside expectations. As I look back on it now, I realize I had tied my value to the outcome of a loving family and assumed there was only one way that worked – Mom, Dad and children. If I didn’t have that I couldn’t be happy. Worse yet, I didn’t deserve happiness. I assumed that if I was dedicated to my family that my husband at the time would be too. And since none of this was working, there must be something wrong with me. I hadn’t earned happiness.
You can’t be your best if you doubt your value to yourself, your family, your work or anything else. You can’t be honest with yourself about what you are experiencing when you are afraid of feeling inadequate. You can’t build your Mindful Self-awareness which is essential for executive presence and sound leadership when all you feel is self-judgment. You can’t manage your emotions in a pressured moment when you are focused on armoring up against fear. Growth happens when we need not be perfect and can observe the situation from a third-party perspective without any judgment of self or others.
Set goals. Dedicate yourself to achieve mastery. And have no expectations.
Qualities I hire for: Integrity, The Three Things, and Drive. The first indicates a moral compass which is character rich and will guide sound decision making and relationship building. The second indicates humility and coachability. They want to get it right more than they need to be right. The third is imperative to success. But without the first two it can be dangerous. People without integrity, mindful self-awareness, self-regulation and self-acceptance but who are driven can kill relationships, act as victims, step on others and won’t be trusted by their own team because they can be winey and self-serving.
When you have integrity, The Three Things and drive it’s the trifecta hire. Wait for it. Hire slowly. If you’ve made a bad decision, try to rehabilitate but if you can’t, move on quickly. It won’t get better.