Your success as a leader is closely associated with your ability to manage and live up to the expectations… of your followers.
We all know that we need to live up to or preferably exceed customer expectations.
But do we also understand that exactly the same mechanisms apply to the expectations of our followers?
From behavioural psychology, we know that there are three components that are important for humans when they evaluate an experience.
Emotions, trust and control.
Emotions influence what we remember, how we score encounters and the decisions we make. We all have explicit memories that we access about events, and implicit, or unconscious, emotional memories that characterise our feelings during those events. Emotionally charged episodes (both positive and negative) are often easily recalled.
Trust is a primitive psychological variable that is essential to any robust and enduring relationship. Without trust, there is often no engagement, only negative feelings such as anxiety and frustration. With trust comes a sense of comfort.
Control over one’s environment and knowledge of how events are going to evolve are fundamental psychological needs. Research shows that feelings of control (or lack thereof) can affect one’s health.
Control plays out in two forms: behavioural and cognitive.
Behavioural control means letting people have a say in how they do things (autonomy); and cognitive control is created by conveying information about the process or the outcome you can expect, i.e. as few negative surprises as possible.
What do they expect?
So with all this in mind, what are the expectations around you as a leader?
According to Mastering Leadership a book by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, leaders need to understand that there are two sets of expectations: Explicit and implicit.
Explicit expectations are fairly straightforward. They are typically about accountability, responsibility, results, strategy and execution. The explicit expectations may even be listed in our job description.
But when your followers chose to follow you as a leader, they have implicit expectations in return for that followership. These expectations are typically about competence, fair treatment, commitment, engagement, listening, acting on suggestions, and providing inspiration, meaning, and direction.
But there is not a given list and it will vary from person to person.
Depending on how well you understand these expectations, you will influence their Emotions, Trust and sense of Control and thus ultimately their engagement.
How do you know what the implicit expectations are? Well that is exactly the point, you probably don’t. Because that is the nature of implicitness, they are not vocalised because they assume that you know…
So you need to ask.
Meaning you need to start a series of conversations with the people you lead with the aim to uncover their expectations – what do they need from you?
Eventually the goal is to make the implicit explicit, and then you will positively reinforce the three parameters: Emotion, Trust and Control.
And that is the way to generate a high level of engagement!