Zombie Blog Post: Always and Never — Best Efforts and Expectations

(Nothing horrific here: a “zombie” post only in the sense of coming back from the electronic dead.)

Here again I’m reprising an old blog post that I particularly like. It was published on this date in 2012 on the old NCSU-IES blog.*

I wrote the post in response to two itemsĀ on another blog, in which Dr. Bret L. Simmons waxed eloquent on things we should “always” or “never” do to be successful leaders. I’m usually not a fan of absolute statements like that, but I found some good things, as you’ll see:

I encourage you to read both lists — Dr. Simmons on “Always” and Dr. Simmons on “Never” — because I’m just going to comment on a few parts.

One item from the “always” list that really resonates with me is, “Always show up on time, well prepared, and give your best effort.”

I find that the better I prepare the better I’m able to give my best effort; however, all too often, I disappoint myself. The outcome doesn’t match my expectation, so I suspect the effort wasn’t really my best. But I’m reminded of Dr. W. Edwards Deming‘s frequent challenges to his audiences that anyone who was not putting forth best efforts should stand and be recognized. No one did, of course, because so long as we’re sincere the effort we expend will be the best we can bring at that time and place. Best efforts don’t guarantee the best results.

I also find that my attempts to show up on time and prepared influence my expectations, such that I expect others to also show up the same way. Unfortunately, we have a phenomenon around here called “Cary Time,” in which chronological starting time is more a suggestion than a requirement (or, for fans of either Ghostbusters or Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s more a guideline than a rule). This brings up another item from the “always” list — “Always expect the best but prepare for the worst” — which fits well with one from the “never” list: “Never apologize for having reasonable expectations of other people.”

Dr. Simmons also recommends, “Never make excuses when you fail to meet the reasonable expectations of others,” which along with the previous item presupposes that we agree on the reasonableness of those expectations. We might differ in our idea of what a “reasonable” expectation is, and I suppose I might be guilty of having higher-than-reasonable expectations. Perhaps I should apologize for that, but I’m not going to — instead I’ll try to apply another of Dr. Simmons’s recommendations: “Always maintain perspective.”

Which seems a reasonable point to close. I don’t know how much value there is in long lists of things to “always” or “never” do, or even in blog posts about such lists, except that they may help us think about things a little differently and take stock of how we’re doing.

We’re doing our best, and I hope we’re doing well.

Always? Never? When is it, anyway? (Image: “Perpetual,” by Ghetu Daniel, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

In some ways my blogging today is all of one accord, since my post this morning — Don’t Expect Instant Transformation — also discussed the topic of expectations. I’m gradually learning how to give myself a bit more grace when it comes to tempering my expectations of myself, and trying to put into practice advice I first learned a quarter century ago: not to “let perfect be the enemy of good.”

That’s sound advice for all of us.

*Readers who have fought these zombie blog posts before may recall that the old IES blog unfortunately no longer exists.

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