I’ve often been accused of expecting too much from people, only to realise that they in fact expect too little from themselves. I’ve seen this play out on numerous occasions where I’ve demanded a level of delivery from colleagues or family members that was slated as unrealistic, only to see them achieve their targets anyway. To me, it proved that my observations of their self-imposed limitations were true. If I was indeed expecting too much, they would never have met the supposedly unrealistic expectations, but because they expected too little from themselves, they assumed that they were incapable of doing so to begin with and therefore started out on the back foot.
There is a fundamental difference between those with a can-do attitude and those with a I-see-a-problem-in-everything attitude. The one looks at the possibilities while the other focuses on the probabilities. As much as it sounds like a play on words, yet another accusation leveled against me on several occasions, there is a simple truth in it. When you consider probabilities, it immediately demands a focus on the expected hurdles, constraints, and other problems that may be experienced in trying to achieve something. Couple this with the predisposition that most have regarding their low expectations from themselves, and inevitably you end up with an individual that is going to be risk averse and safe, never pushing the boundaries, and rarely leading any efforts at all. In other words, you end up with a follower, often a blind one as well.
Such followers are easily capable of deflecting attention away from their negative attitude by offering ideas and suggestions indicating support and constructive input about how those hurdles and obstacles can be navigated. Worse than this, they probably don’t even realise what limitations they’re placing on themselves by focusing on the probability factors only, which makes it even more sad. But the reality is, they’ll help you fight the good fight, but they’ll never take you into new territory. Within the workplace, they will be the optimisers and renovators but never the innovators.
If you start out looking at what is the ideal, and considering what is possible, ignoring the hurdles and the obstacles, chances are good that you’ll find ways to sell that vision to others in a way that will give them reason to stop being so fixated on the distractions and instead, to use their skills at navigating around obstacles to help you achieve the common vision. Chances are, you’ll find yourself leading others through situations that would seem daunting to most. By default, a focus on possibilities emphasises a grounding in principles, which ultimately sets the foundation for leadership. Like someone said recently, leaders take you to places that you weren’t going to before.
I’ve always subscribed to the simple philosophy of starting out with the ideal in mind. Once that ideal vision has been created, then only tamper it with reality and practicality, but don’t sell it short just because others don’t see what you see. At times when the overwhelming majority are ready to throw in the towel because the probability of success is low, that’s when it’s important to revisit the vision you first embraced and to re-energise yourself around what is possible so that you can look beyond the probabilities of failure that you’re facing at that point.