Recovery begins with a realistic recalibration.
There’s a psychological phenomenon that I refer to as “unexpressed expectations = planned resentment.” In all walks of life — social, business, family, recreational — people are disappointed, become angry, and are sometimes disillusioned because an outcome falls short of their hopes and dreams. And they don’t connect their resentment with the fact that they didn’t articulate those expectations to the people expected to fulfill them. This equates to magical thinking, which is charming in a 7-year-old child wishing for snow, but not acceptable in a business colleague. (To be fair, even little kids understand the importance of letting Santa know that they want a firetruck for Christmas.)
If we fail to tell someone what we expect them to deliver, how can they possibly succeed? This could be the biggest threat we face today as we trudge, hopes held high as a torch, toward that light we are seeing at the end of the dark COVID tunnel. I am an optimist, but I am not naïve. I worry that people’s expectations are based on how things used to be, instead of calibrated for our new reality. Even worse is what could happen if their expectations go unspoken, because they assume that everything will magically go back to “how it’s always been done.”
That’s not realistic. In fact, it’s dangerous. Even if you are lucky enough to be in an industry or business that has not been compromised by pandemic shutdowns (there are not many), global economic recovery now requires working closely with partners in the supply chain that have suffered material damage. To expect that we can just flip a switch and the machine will start purring away, just as it did 18 months ago, is wishful thinking. This leaves us two choices.
- We can find new suppliers and collaborators. This means sacrificing the foundational knowledge and experience in the critical, detail-intensive areas that are typically fulfilled outside of the core company. We can hope the new team includes mind readers.
- We can design a strategic, collaborative plan to move forward with valued partners. We can work together to create new models, set new expectations, and enable recovery throughout the ecosystem.
It’s been said of the global pandemic that no one is safe until everyone is safe. This seems equally true for global economic recovery. Not many of us work in a company that is insular and fully self-contained. We need to think about the health of the global markets and business sectors in which we operate. We can be high-handed about unmet expectations, or we can extend a trusting handshake and agree on a mutually viable plan.
This isn’t about lowering standards. Quite the opposite. We need to play at a higher level on unfamiliar terrain that will be shifting every step of the way. We are all called upon to apply our collective wisdom and experience to anticipate unseen tripwires before we set them off. That’s the new world order. We have huge opportunities, and the odds of success improve when we work together, build trust, and articulate our expectations. The alternative is to plan, right now, to be disappointed.