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Baseball & Expectations

The longer I am in the working world, the more I realize the parallels between my personal growth and professional development. It's truly that work-life integration in every sense of the phrase. There are a lot of parallels.

With three young kids, this parenting thing is a "learn as you go" mentality. At times you feel like you are rocking it, other times I feel like I need to phone in reinforcements to correct my mistakes. I can only imagine that tide continues to rise and fall as the kids' ages grow and we get into uncharted waters.

Over the summer, my son was playing travel baseball with some friends from school. We discovered quickly, however, that the intensity of the game and pressure was weighing heavily on him. He would get very emotional. He was extremely hard on himself - whether it was striking out or making a mistake in the field. As the season went on, these emotions amplified to the point that it was getting in the way of him being successful playing baseball. It would cloud his judgement and he would get worried about every little thing. Can you relate to that?

Oh boy, here we go. How do I parent to this? What can I do or tell him that will help him relieve the pressure on himself? Or is this something he's just going to need to learn as he goes? I *might* know where he got it from, what can I teach him now so he doesn't have to live his whole life this way? We are not the type of parents to protect them however I also want to make sure he equipped with the right tools to handle things when they come his way.

Since this was a new situation for our son, we spent time talking about expectations of the game. Not only our expectations (Try your best, listen to your coaches and have FUN), but also understanding expectations of the game. People strike out in baseball all the time. In fact, even the best professionals strike out many times a year so you should expect to since you are just learning the game. You will lose games. You will make mistakes - that's how you learn.

I think about that in the professional setting as well. The bottom layers of the Gallup Hierarchy of Needs are "Knowing what's expected of me" and "Do I have the tools I need to do my job". At work, to set our employees up for success, we need to give the baseline tools and resources, and appropriate expectations to be successful. The same thing applies at home.

This ties directly to new people on our teams in organizations. They come in blind - new situations, new opportunities to learn and grow. Are we taking the time to help them fully understand expectations? Do they know operating expectations in the business? Perhaps that’s core values, collaboration across the business, etc? Do they know and understand your expectations as a leader and how you operate? Do they have a full understanding of the what success looks like, and how they can achieve that? Do you as a leader know the answer to those questions?

It's also completely normal for those expectations to change. What the focus needs to be on, who and where to engage, the appetite for risk in the business. Those, and many more variables, might drive the need to reset expectations with your teams. And with change in expectations, knowing and understanding your team well enough to know how explicit you need to be about that and the lead time needed for their tolerance level for change. Make no assumptions people know or will naturally pick up on it - clarity on expectation is kindness.

As we learned with our son, he was going to learn it the hard way if we didn't have those conversations and give him tools to cope with the expectations he was placing on himself. We needed to be very clear in what he could do in those situations in order to navigate them successfully. Much like being a leader, we need to be there for our teams to provide as much clarity around expectations as possible. That builds trust in the relationship, which ultimately creates a more engaged and productive team member. More explicit conversations to remove the grey area, resulting in fewer assumptions.

Reflection questions:

  • Do you know what's expected of you in the various aspects of the business (core values, success and leadership)?

  • Do you know what's expected of your team in the various baseline aspects of the business (core values, success, leadership)?

  • Have you communicated those expectations to new and existing team members?

  • How can you weave those expectations into regular dialogs with your teams to reinforce, and or calibrate along the way?


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