Tag Archives: zone of proximal development

How to Set High Expectations For Those You Lead

Yesterday, I wrote a post about setting high expectations for those you lead. You can read that post here.

But, it’s not enough to simply know that you need to set those high expectations. It’s not as simple as saying to a person, “I expect you to operate at this level”, then leaving them alone and hoping it happens. What we need to define is how to set high expectations for those you lead.

I’d like to accomplish this by a question and answer format. Let’s begin!

How high of an expectation do I set for someone?

We must set expectations according to three factors. First, we must understand where the person’s potential could take them. How far can they go? What are they capable of accomplishing? Second, we must understand where they currently are. And three, we must clearly state expectations in the context of their area of responsibility. Too many expectations can water down what we desire for them to accomplish and to grow in.

A great tool for this is the zone of proximal development. This tool helps us to understand that there are certain things a person can do on their own, there are other things they can only do aided by someone else, then there are things that they cannot do.

If we set expectations in the area of things they cannot do, the person will most likely reject (or be apathetic about) the job. They won’t advance much. If we set expectations in the area of things they can do on their own, then they will do incredibly well at maintaining their level of knowledge, but there will be no growth.

Our job is to continuously push people one step further than where they are currently at. Only in this way do we help peoplpe grow step by step.

Yes, but what if I’ve got a big goal/vision/expectation in mind for the person who’s in charge of a particular area?

Well, don’t let go of it! Remember this, thing big, start small. In some cases you might have a candidate for a job who’s able to see at your level and get on board with you to accomplish the task. If that is the case, more power to you! But, most people are not that way.

In that case, we must take the person step by step with achievable tasks so that they gain the ability to believe they are able to accomplish big things. The goal here is growth and progress over time. A high expectation for a person may not be achieved immediately, but the goal is for it to be attained eventually, on a step by step basis.

How do I determine the type of expectation I set for someone? What should it look like?

Always be sure to keep your expectations in agreement with your organization’s values. Your values are the driving force behind the experience of what your company/church/non-profit is about. If you keep your high expectations in agreement with your values, you will have a cohesiveness in presentation and momentum. This means that everyone on your team will be working together to accomplish great thing, supporting one another in the process.

Other things to consider:

Is the person in the right role that fits their capacity and commitment? When a person is capable but doesn’t have the commitment level to make it happen, there will be problems. On the other side, if someone has the commitment level, but not the capacity, they will most likely never succeed in their role. In either case, we would be setting them up for failure.

Let me be clear: “capacity” does not mean that they are already there. On the contrary! Capacity simply refers to the potential that exists inside of the person to grow into a certain skill set. There are some skills that some people will never learn. It would be a mistake to place them in something that they don’t have a skill set for.

Let’s set high expectations for the organizations we lead!

Are there any other questions you have? Feel free to email me at connect@jefftolle.org or post your question in the comments. Let me know your thoughts!