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Expect More Not Less from People

We all believe we do this. But do we? In God’s eyes we are all created equal. Yet, in our own eyes, it’s amazing how we focus on our differences, and even worse, we focus on other people’s weaknesses first.

If I asked you what you are not good at, you could list several skills or traits. Same would be true of what you consider your good skills. My question is why do you believe this? Could it be that most of us have been programmed by our parents, peers, and friends to believe we have limits to our abilities?

My mother picked up after me because I was messy, and it was easier than training me to put things back before going to the next activity. Guess what I am today? Yep, and it drives my organized wife crazy! Am I capable of doing better? You bet. Looking back, I see that I have been conditioned to believe I am less than I could be. I was also told I was non mechanical, and yet, I can follow directions to fix things. I got a low grade in graduate school in written communication, so when people tell me I have writing skills, I doubt them. I have even taught a workshop on written communication, but I still carry that negative memory as a result of a simple grade.

I have managed people where I tell them I believe in them, but when time pressure rears its head, I pull back assignments to complete them myself. What am I saying about my expectations for them? What grade am I placing in their mind?

On the other side, I had a janitor, John Hendrix, tell me I wasn’t so bad at playing a bass guitar when I was truly terrible. He told me all I needed was 1,000 hours. John invested some of his time to get me started, and three years (and 1,000 hours) later, I ended up playing in a praise band. And this was after I was asked to not show up for tryouts at a church looking for backup musicians. He expected more of me than I did myself.

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers popularized the concept of 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. I wonder how many 10,000 hour journeys are never started thanks to someone else’s negative expectation of the traveler. Think of Jesus’ parable of the seed sower, and think of the ground as your expectations of others. Are you fertile ground or hard ground for the seeds of encouragement and support?

As the saying goes: If you think you can, you’re right, and if you think you can’t, you’re still right. The corollary to this also applies: If you think they can, you’re right, and if you think they can’t, you’re still right. So why not be the one exception to the rule and become a John Hendrix?

Most organizations pay this lip service. The success ladder has some magic dust that falsely leads managers to equate wisdom with rank. The bigger the title, the more people believe they know relative to their subordinates. Forgotten is the fact that most of us were subordinates once. The whole concept of management is contrary to this rule. This rule is about leadership, management is about control.

Out of box thinking like Lean Manufacturing, Leaders without Titles, ROWE, Mojo ect., all show the benefits of trusting people and empowering each person to be the best they can be. The fact that such approaches are out of the box suggests this rule hasn’t been widely achieved.

Does this mean we are all great at everything if only someone believed in us? Of course not! Yet, ask yourself this question, was I my best today? If not, why not? Were any of the shortfalls due to assumptions placed on you by others? Then ask these questions: Who did I encourage to be the best they can be today? Did my actions support this belief?

My dad understood this. Dick Miller saw the world through rose colored glasses. More importantly, he saw people through rose colored glasses. When his Fortune 500 Company wouldn’t hire a classmate of mine because he lacked a certain GPA, Dad was furious. He would tell me, “Rick, you and I both know Paul worked his way through school, and with his personality and maturity, he will do great. Dad didn’t get to hire Paul, but he tracked Paul’s successful career. We joked about it for years.

Dad understood that God created us all in his image, which means we all have gifts and talents. He looked for those talents in everyone and saw most of us as half filled works in progress. And when you know the potential is there, you can easily expect it to come out. There is always room for more in a half filled cup.

If you can remember when a Dick Miller or John Hendrix filled your cup with encouragement, then go ahead and pay them back by paying it forward. Sow some encouragement and higher expectations in someone, step back, and watch what happens.

Jesus Christ, in his parable of the talents, gave us a great example of what to do with “talents.” So if the Creator of the universe expects each of us to take the talents He gave us, and multiply them, why shouldn’t we expect the same from others?

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