You’ve seen it before. A decidedly average team rises, against all odds, to win the championship. A normal person, no different than the rest of us, creates a billion-dollar empire in the business world. How does this happen? What is it that sets these teams or individuals apart? And, most importantly, how can we learn from their successes and grow into our own fullest potential?
The answer: expectations.
Without high expectations, most of us would probably wallow in the realm of mediocrity. Be honest with yourself. When is the last time you examined your expectations, personally and professionally? It is a crucial thing to do regularly, to revisit – and reset – what you know you are capable of accomplishing.
People should expect great things, from themselves and others. Creating a culture of high expectations is a powerful way to achieve success. Here are a few ways to succeed in life by explicitly focusing on raising the bar of what is expected.
Expect Greatness from the Start
Back in 1963, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen conducted a research study in a classroom. Students were given a test to identify which of them were most likely to achieve success in school. Teachers were given the results, which identified a small group of students with the highest academic potential: the “growth spurters,” as they were labeled. Those students went on to greatly outperform the other students in the class by the end of the school year.
It turns out, however, those kids were not “growth spurters.” They were chosen randomly at the start of the study. These students were no different than their peers! The difference was in what the teachers expected out of these students. Teachers were able to elevate student performance by believing in these “gifted” kids and holding them to a higher standard.
This same concept can apply to the workplace. If a culture of outstanding performance is expected of all members, employees will rise to the occasion. Managers and employees need to believe in themselves as well as their co-workers. When excellence is expected from the start, people will consistently maintain that performance.
Celebrate the Small Victories
To promote ongoing high performance, encourage success. Recognize it! If a worker nails a task, compliment them. A “Good job!” or “Thanks for your effort!” can do wonders. People want to know that they are on track and that they are meeting expectations. Those workers are going to keep on performing, so they don’t let you – or themselves – down.
Address Failures Immediately
On the flip side of that coin, failures need to be pointed out and discussed as soon as they occur. Letting a failure go can lead to much worse consequences down the road. If a task is late or done poorly, workers need to know that such performance is unacceptable. If a group doesn’t meet a pre-set benchmark, individuals should be allowed one-on-one time with their manager. This can be a valuable time for personal growth. Instead of blaming others, individuals can reflect on what they did wrong and how they can improve next time. Once all team members have reset their expectations, the team can reconvene to figure out how to improve together.
Human beings make mistakes. But human beings are also extremely resilient and can quickly get back to top-level performance. Clear communication is an absolute must. Failures should be treated as learning opportunities instead of a way to chop others down. It benefits everyone to bring these letdowns to light so that we can realign our personal and professional targets.
Be There for your Team
Whether it is with family, employees, or co-workers, being supportive of them is key. Managers can provide feedback continuously so that expectations remain crystal clear. We all run into very challenging tasks, to the point where we need help. That’s ok. Workplaces that provide a scaffold, a way to offer resources and help, are going to succeed in the long run. Employees know when they are supported, and that they can achieve whatever lofty goals they have because their bosses have their backs.
Raising expectations for ourselves and for what we want from others is a huge step towards success. With high expectations, the right support, and clear communication, any of us can rise and win a championship.