Recently I had the experience of delivering one of the best leadership development workshops I have ever done. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait to see the course evaluations. I sat and looked through them and was shocked by the number of low scores and negative comments the session received. I was not prepared for this. I knew I had done a great workshop and I knew that in the past my work had been very positively received; so what was the problem?

The comments revealed the problem. Expectations! What I delivered was not what the participants were expecting. It is a lesson I will never forget. No matter how good we perform in our jobs, if we do not meet the expectations of our audience, or constituents; we face their wrath.

I gave an A+ leadership session to a group of educators who were expecting a session focused on technology. The result? While part of the group was happy with what they learned; a sizable portion of the group was disappointed that I did not take care of their needs.

I can see where this lesson has relevance beyond workshops and presentations. Each of us might be wise to answer the following questions:

Who are the constituents we serve?
For educators the answers might be students, teachers, parents, community, and/or administration.

What are the expectations that each of these constituencies has of us?
Each of the constituencies may have a different set of expectations.

How do we know that our assumptions about the expectations of these constituencies are accurate?
We may want to check in with them to insure that our assumptions are on target.

How well do we meet our constituents’ expectations?
Sometimes we tend to follow a vision that appeals to us personally and does not take into account those we serve.

I remember being invited to a district picnic by our central office. I came ready to party…shorts, cooler, baseball glove, etc. The picnic turned out to be a little ceremony for a half dozen retirees. There was a table with cookies and sodas on it and the Superintendent handed out certificates thanking those retiring. The whole thing took less than an hour and people left immediately after. If I hadn’t expected a fun picnic, I would have thought this was a nice gesture; but those of us standing in our shorts with our coolers by our sides; felt disappointed and betrayed…where was our picnic?

What expectations do people have of you?


Coming in a future post: Further discussions on setting and managing expectations.


4 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. This is a great example of the importance of doing a needs analysis. What ever we do rapidly loses it’s value if we are not meeting expectations, and not communicating to get feedback

  2. Mr. Reilly,

    It is great to see the reflection. I was one of the attendees of this NYSCATE Leadership Conference in Syracuse. I must say I came away with a lot of great reminders of leadership tendencies. Many tendencies that I often forget to exemplify. I think the reason many of the constituents were disappointed was most assumed the NYSCATE label would place an emphasis on technology. The other reason I believe most were disappointed was because the emailed leadership conference agenda specifically stated “technology integration.” Again, I can only truly speak for myself when I say I enjoyed day one very much, I enjoyed meeting other dedicated educators from various areas of New York. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet you personally. Good luck with your efforts on leadership as Ghandi says, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

    ¡Viviendo el sueño!
    “Living the Dream!”

  3. I would support the use of electronic forms of pre-communication or pre-workshop activities that engage participants ahead of time. I have tried needs assessments to help with expectations but they are sometimes flat. We really learn about people by interacting with them and engaging them in discussion. When I worked at BOCES I had forums, discussion threads and pre-workshop activities that allowed me to get to know people ahead of time. I am not sure there is anyway to meet all expectations unless we really know our audience. My opinion is we can’t know them unless we interact and work on something with them. Tough one but something we all grapple with.

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