You Can Lead A Horse to Water….

ExpectationsExpectations.  Anyone can set them.  That’s the easy part, but when it comes to holding others accountable for them, that’s a different story.  And here’s why….

If your expectations don’t align with their own individually set standards, you may care about the outcomes more than they do.

Personally, I set pretty high expectations – for myself, for my kids, and for those who work with and for me.  I think most would also say I’m fair in the ways I hold them accountable.  Fair, but certainly not easy.

Let’s take my kids, for example….I have high parental expectations of them.  True to my coaching approach, my expectations for them are more around effort than results.  If the efforts there, yet for whatever reason the results fall short, that’s okay.  It’s the behavior, the preparation (quite literally, the homework and studying), that matters most to me.

In my teaching, my expectations are similarly high.  I do my best to make sure my students are challenged, and from the grumblings, I’d say many would agree.  But as with my kids, my goal in setting high expectations for my students is not merely to make sure they’re doing a ton of work.  It’s not a “I walked 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways” kind of thing.  Instead, it’s because I know they can handle it (because I’ve seen many other graduate students handle it in the past….and I myself handled it as a working dad and part-time, evening graduate student) and because I’m convinced of the value their receive from it in the end.

You see, whether we’re talking about my kids, my students, or anyone focused on completing an educational journey, it’s about the journey, not the destination.  It’s about developing knowledge, for sure.  But even more so, it’s about developing the habits, skills, and experiences (in the classroom and in applying the knowledge learned) that will pay dividends in the years ahead.

Foot JugglingEveryone’s busy these days, from high school cheerleaders to business leaders traveling, managing, and juggling work with family lives.  I’ll say it again….It’s an incredibly frenetic pace in which we live!  And yet, expectations are infinitely high.

I remember being a first-time graduate student nearly fifteen years ago.  I was living overseas in the military, flying 8-10 hour missions, managing a training department, raising two kids under the age of five, and taking classes in the evenings.  I read, wrote, and occasionally slept whenever I had the chance.  And quite honestly, IT SUCKED!  But, boy, did I learn!  I learned to hone my research skills and my writing proficiency.  I learned to ask questions.  And I learned to persevere and simply put my head down and “get ‘er done!”  The professors had incredibly high expectations, but none exceeded my own expectations.

See, we should never let others’ expectations for us be higher than those we set for ourselves.  As a parent, that’s been a tough lesson to learn.  I can set expectations and the consequences for both exceeding or falling short of those expectations.  But I cannot invoke action on those whose expectations for themselves fall below my threshold.  They alone must set their expectations and self-motivate.  The same is true in business or as a college professor.

Boys Pushing & Pulling Stubborn MuleWhere others succeed, perhaps it is due in some small measure on the articulated expectations I’ve set.  But really, it’s more a testament to their own self-motivation.  And where they fail to meet the expectations, I can empathize with their fate.  But I can’t feel responsible.  After all, it’s true what they say…“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

That’s a tough lesson for sure…..

2 thoughts on “You Can Lead A Horse to Water….

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