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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Expectations

By Kevin O'Toole, August 10 2021 12:01 am

Recently, I sat down with a business owner in Florida, and he was disheartened that his employees continue to frustrate and disappoint him. He was seeking answers.

One possible solution: lower expectations and cut the risk of disappointment. It is a tad bit depressing, however, that we have lower expectations, but it seems like a plausible answer to resolve daily and time-consuming frustration, while avoiding predictable failed outcomes.

Some might disagree with this seemingly defeatist approach. But I believe this approach appreciates the job of managing the talent that you have—and succeeding—rather than failing with what you wish you had.

Let’s explore. We recognize that certain of us have been trained, in many instances, by caring but unrelenting immigrant parent or parents. Sound familiar? Or we have been mentored by fivetool players who are constantly in fifth gear. Either way, the environment that created and molded us had a lasting and permanent impact on us.

That sort of development has a certain way of defining us, but it also sets certain standards as we grow and raise children or supervise and manage employees. And it’s not always an easy way to live.

Many of us have tried to raise kids the way we were raised. How is that working out in today’s world? How old were your kids before you relented on that endless pining for a cell phone (4th grade), or when did you cave and admit this was not the same youth we experienced (kindergarten)?

The same holds true as we manage employees or mentor future leaders.

Here is the hard, distilled truth: having unreasonable expectations is harmful on two fronts.

1) It will surface and breed disappointment because the bar you set will never be met.

2) It is unfair to have an expectation of someone who is incapable of meeting it.

In many ways this advice encourages a dumbing down of expectations. But if we are to succeed in this demanding environment, we need to find people who were raised JUST like us or set expectations that can actually be met.

In some instances, that might mean doing the hard stuff ourselves, but isn’t that what our parents taught us?

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