“We don’t need to feel guilty for not predicting what people might do”

Well, if we didn’t believe we here in Canada could be the targets of terrorist attacks, we know better now.

ottawa shootingsIn the past three days, we have seen two attacks on Canadian soldiers. First, Martin Courture-Rouleau ran down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car in Quebec. Police have subsequently confirmed the 25-year-old “radicalized” Quebec man was one of 90 suspected extremists in Canada on their radar.

Today, we are in shock with the news that a supposedly “lone-wolf” shooter, identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24. He was serving at a ceremonial post at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. The gunman then fled for Parliament Hill, where he unleashed more gunfire inside the Centre Block, where he was killed.

The question from those analyzing these killings: Could the police have done more? Especially in the first case, where the police had Couture-Roleau on their radar. Couldn’t they have kept him under surveillance? Or arrested him?  The government had pulled the passports of these men, so surely they knew there was some possibility. If he and others are on a list of suspected terrorists, aren’t they just accidents waiting to happen?

The answer? Yes, and no. Yes, these people, and probably others, are a threat. But only if they “act out” their evil ideology of murdering people to threaten a society they hate.

For our own sanity and peace, we need to stop expecting to be able to anticipate any and every eventuality. That does not mean we do not observe, take note and use precautions, even extreme ones. But the reality is, we do not know what is going to happen. The perpetrators have that advantage, the element of surprise. The ability to attack when they will. It has happened again, and will always be the case.

The same rule applies to our own lives. Repeating “if only” will not help, though we may believe we could have done something or said something. Understanding our limits means being at peace with our inability to predict what will happen.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press.

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“Call me unpredictable!”

In the words of the Sammy Cahn and James van Heusen classic, “Call Me Irresponsible”, the great singer Frank Sinatra confessed:

Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical                                                  Rainbows, I’m inclined to pursue.                                                                                      (Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

In this ode of love, he admitted he was unpredictable, so be careful. A fair warning for those embarking on a relationship with him. Thanks, Frank!

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How are your predictions going these days?

For those following the World Series, all predictions of a Detroit or Baltimore versus Washington World Series are long forgotten as the unlikely tandem of Kansas City – Kansas City? Really? – and San Francisco (back for the third time in five years) take the field tonight.

For any gearing up for the NHL season, the airwaves are rife with predictions. Talk radio and cable shows are filled with panels of analysts telling us whether Ovechkin will flourish with a new coach or if Edmonton will blow up their roster if they don’t start winning soon.

My thought? Call them unpredictable. Sure, it’s fun to predict, then see if we are correct, or have to eat humble pie.

We live in a time of over-analysis where predictions are the norm. Predictions are simply expectations made with whatever facts are at our disposal. These facts are mixed with a liberal amount of hope and guesswork.

Next Monday’s municipal elections will reveal whose predictions were correct about the local elections, especially the Toronto mayoralty race. When asked last evening what they would do if they lost the race, each said they would not lose. Fair to say two of those contenders were wrong.

As for the voters? Call them unpredictable. And watch the results.

© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

 

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“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (.).

 

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“Managing expectations may mean saying No.”

If you are following the current baseball season, you have seen the ongoing farewell tour for NY Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.  This is Jeter’s twentieth and final season in the big league. Much like last season’s farewell for Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera, the process has become something of a circus, with each team looking for novel ways to honour the retiring superstar.

derek farewell

The other side of the story is how the Yankees and Jeter have had to manage the expectations of those he is visiting.  With local media in each city begging for some face-time with the man of the hour, it has been left to Jason Zillo, Yankees director of media relations, to keep the hounds at bay.  How has he done it?

Zillo was quoted in the Globe and Mail saying: “The toughest thing has just been trying to manage everybody’s expectations from a media point of view. I’ve had to learn to say no about 10,000 times this year.”  (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/baseball/for-jeter-the-farewell-gifts-keep-piling-up/article20714586/)

Saying no can be difficult, especially when we are trying to please others. Parents know this as they seek to please their kids but curb their desire for treats.  Employers know this when they have some success, but cannot meet the desire for greater pay and still meet budget.  Perhaps you know this personally from your own experience.  Which of us has not agonized over having to say no when we wanted to say yes.  The reality of the situation meant we had to “play the heavy” and say no.  I’ve been that person more times than I’d care to remember.

Perhaps one other thing Zillo said can help us as we seek to manage those expectations, even with a, “sorry, but no.”  He adds, “Derek said it in spring training and he’s been consistent with it all year: His primary and main focus is to win baseball games.” There it is, the reality behind the necessity to say no.  For Jeter, as for each of us, the good can distract from the main purpose.  Zillo took his cues from Jeter, and said no to anything that might interfere with that.

How about you?  Are you learning to say “no” when what is being requested interferes with your main purpose?  For each one of us, managing those expectations of us may well mean saying a polite but firm, “No.”

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (.).

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“Expectations and uncertainty.”

Yesterday was the deadline for declaring one’s candidacy in municipal elections in Ontario. While the mayoral race in the city of Toronto seems to have been going on forever, Friday September 12 was the official date to declare whether any candidate was staying in or dropping out. Two prominent candidates, Karen Stintz and David Socknacki, had made that choice already, citing low polling results as being too much to overcome so late in the process.  But yesterday had a greater change than anyone anticipated.  Current mayor Rob Ford was dropping out of the race, and was being replaced by his brother, councillor Doug Ford.

Toronto Mayoral Debate

As one might predict, the Toronto media was aflame last night with this news. Something truly unanticipated had happened.  This change of events was the result of the discovery earlier in the week of a tumour in Rob Ford’s abdomen.  Doctors are waiting for the results of a biopsy to decide treatment, but this shocking turn brought Mayor Ford to the decision to pull out of the race and ask his big brother to take his place.

So the words of another city councillor, Josh Matlow, ring true at this moment.  He is quoted in todays’ Globe and Mail as saying: “The one certainty about mayoral politics today is that nothing is certain.”  Matlow has that right.  What seemed to be down to a three-way race between Olivia Chow, John Tory and Rob Ford changed quickly to a different race, with a new candidate who has to quickly establish himself as the one to fulfill a role he has never sought.

What do we expect next?  Matlow is correct again here. We really don’t know for certain what to expect – and that’s alright.  It makes the race all that much more interesting and exciting.

Uncertainty is not the most comfortable way to live, but life is full of uncertainty.  Mayoral races are just one example.  In my next post, I’ll speak further on the place of uncertainty in our decision-making.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (.).

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“When you don’t want surprises.”

There are times when we love surprises. Like on our birthdays, anniversaries, any time a gift comes and exceeds our wildest imaginations, and so on. I’ve had some great surprises in my life, and I hope you have as well.

But there are times when we don’t want any surprises. Times when we want to be sure we know exactly what to expect.

surprise

Listen to film-maker Philippe Falardeau as he speaks of his recent film, The Good Lie:

“I need to make sure everyone is on the same page. I write emails to the producers (there are 13 credited producers on The Good Lie); we discuss it; you don’t want them to be surprised.”

Falardeau realized that, as inconvenient as it was to send 13 emails, he needed to make sure each of his films producers was up to speed on any changes and decisions. If not? A surprise, and perhaps not a pleasant one.

How about you? Who do you have to keep in the loop, so that person or persons are not surprised?

It may take extra time and more work to keep everyone on the same page, but it sure beats the unexpected surprise that can sour a project and your relationships with others. Let’s save the surprises for the next birthday.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (.).

 

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“If you expect something, please let me know.”

Have you ever done something, only to find out after the fact others expected you to do something else?

mindreader3I was leading a group in a church I worked in, and a team member came at the end of their stint to say their good-byes. In the course of what was an otherwise pleasant conversation, this person added, “I do have to tell you this was not what I had expected, Brian…” and went on to tell me how I had disappointed them by not doing some things they thought I would do. (I am being purposely vague to respect this person and the situation.) I was caught off guard at the time, and mumbled a half-apology. I then began to defend myself by saying they never told me what they expected, so I was never aware of those desires. While I did attempt to follow up at a later date and make sure we parted on good terms, I was never comfortable with how this was handled.

How might we handle it when we learn we are not meeting unspoken expectations?

As I said, I was caught off guard by this comment, but in hindsight I now realize I need to be prepared to hear those comments. As a leader and one working with or for other people, this is bound to happen, so best to at least have some preparation. Yes, I’m saying we should expect others to not always tell us what they expect! I may not have any control over their expectations, either voiced or private, but I can control myself and my response.

What would I do now? First, I would thank the person for sharing their expectations, albeit after the fact. I do believe it is good to know this information, as it may serve to explain other situations I am involved in. Second, I would affirm them for sharing, and ask if there is anything else I ought to know. I now realize I had not held an exit interview with this person, but in the absence of a formal one, there is no time like the present to hear any information relevant to one’s work. Thirdly, I would encourage this person, as graciously as possible, to share their expectations with those they work with as soon as they realize what they are. While I would not be the beneficiary of this advice, I hope I’m helping others in the future.

The truth is, we all have unspoken expectations of others. I know I have my share. I am learning to be careful of expressing them after the fact, as it often creates unwanted tension as there is no way to meet those expectations now. If I do express those expectations, I make sure I acknowledge my failure to share them on the front-end.

Are you finding yourself in situations where you have to decide whether to share your expectations of another after they have done what you did not want? There is no hard and fast rule here. It is usually a situation to address based on factors like our relationship and common sense. Nevertheless, the one rule we can all take away from this to help in being clear on what we expect is this:

If you expect something, please let us (or me) know.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (.).

 

 

 

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“We get frustrated because…”

Why do we get frustrated?

I’m guessing you are ready to list several circumstances that cause you to feel frustrated. Situations like traffic jams, unkept promises by significant people, plans that go awry, or even sports teams that don’t live up to your hopes for them this season (hello Toronto sports fans!)frustration

At first glance, our frustrations seem situational. They occur randomly, and are generated by something or someone “out there” that doesn’t do what we want (i.e., show up on time, deliver the goods, win the game, keep their word). While those situations do play into our frustrations, we are actually missing the root of our frustrations….                    our expectations.

Let me explain what I mean: I would not be frustrated in each of those situations if I did not already have an expectation that was not being met. I am frustrated by their unkept promise because I expected them to keep their word. I am frustrated by the traffic jam because I expected to get there in plenty of time. Yes, I left early, however the accident up ahead has created a major blockage and and I did not expect to be stuck on this highway for two hours. I expected a slow drive, but not a dead stop. Aaargh!!!!

So, am I saying we should not get frustrated? Please, give me a break! That is never going to happen. In fact, we are wired to get frustrated.

The bottom line is, our unmet expectations will produce frustration. So what can we do?

First, realize we have little or no control over situations, be they traffic, others actions, or even the performance of our favourite teams. So blaming them for our frustrations is simply fueling our anger and resentment more. Sure they disappoint us, they let us down, but we have no control over these situations, or the people who create them.

Second, we can take control over our expectations. We can focus our energies on realizing what they are, and whether they are realistic. Maybe they are realistic, so we are legitimately frustrated when the promise is not kept or the path is blocked. In that case, we will feel that frustration, and hopefully we will look for a healthy way to vent our frustration. But if they are not realistic, we can adjust them to bring them into line with reality as we now understand it. This accident is going to keep me here longer and I’ll miss part of the meeting; the broken promise is going to change our relationship; we aren’t making the playoffs this year, so perhaps it is time to begin focusing on another sport.

Do you get frustrated much? That means you are not seeing your expectations met in the ways you hoped. Perhaps this is a good time to analyze those expectations. Do a reality check. A few adjustments here may help you get a handle on the frustrations in your life.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (www.scarletcordpress.com).

 

 

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“If you want to meet expectations.”

Do you want to meet expectations?                        I want

Are you running a business or service and you want to meet your customer’s expectations, so they are satisfied, keep coming back and may even recommend you? Are you working in a group and want to do your part, fulfilling your component of the project and being affirmed for it? Or are you simply trying to follow up in your promise to family or friends so that you maintain your part in the relationships?

While it seems obvious that we would want to meet the expectations of both ourselves and others, it is never a given. What do we need to know and do to make sure we are on track to meet expectations?

  1. If we hope to meet expectations, we need to know exactly what they are. Before you say, “well duh”, let me assure you that in my work as a leader, coach and consultant, I am constantly asking for specific expectations, and often find they are not there. For example, I ask for the job description the person is working from, and there is none, or just a few lines of generic babble. Not helpful! If we do not realize what these expectations are, we will have difficult time showing we have met them. Do you know specifically what is expected of you, so when you have accomplished it, you can point to it? We always begin by realizing as explicitly as possible what is to be expected.
  2. If we hope to meet expectations, we need to determine if they are reachable. Specific objectives and goals are great, but are they realistic? Can we really increase sales by 20%? Are we comfortable in saying we will be able to make those payments? Are we simply guessing how many will buy what we are building? This is not to douse anyone’s hopes or dreams, but nothing deflates more than setting the bar so high that we cannot possibly reach it. After we realize our expectations, we need to analyze them – how realistic are they? The acrostic SMART goals is wisely incorporated here: Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Realistic/ Timeline attached.
  3. Finally, if you hope to meet expectations, you have to have agreement with your team, group, family – whoever you are working with to fulfill those expectations. Again, it may seem simple, but how many times do we get into the project, believing we have buy-in, only to discover we are on our own? This may be because we have assumed others agreed (Did we ask? Did we confirm?) or because we believe others will simply buy in as we go along. Some of my greatest frustrations and failures can be linked to my proud yet foolish assumption others were following where I was leading. How much better if I would have initiated that conversation from the outset and be assured there was agreement from the team, group, family I was working with. We must verbalize our expectations when we work with others, and make sure we are synthesizing together. We may have buy in, or we may need to negotiate. Better to work out those agreements on the front end, and avoid the surprise of team revolt or mutiny down the road.

Do you want to meet expectations? Of course we want to meet expectations, and have everyone happy. That’s why following the simple plan of realizing – analyzing – verbalizing and synthesizing can provide great guidelines to help us meet expectations. For more help, read “What do you expect?”, and learn how to incorporate this simple plan into your projects.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (www.scarletcordpress.com).

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“But I expected so much more.”

Boyhood-trailer

Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the film, “Boyhood” and plan to see it and don’t want to know these details, bookmark this site and come back after you see it.

Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood follows the twelve year journey of Mason (actor Ellar Coltrane) and his family in Texas. Linklater, as both writer and director, shot the film over twelve years by regrouping his actors for several days to observe where the family was at each year of their journey. This may sound bland and pedantic, but he manages to draw us into this family’s relationships by allowing us to watch ordinary experiences and how they affect each one. By movies end, we have watched them grow up, or grow older, and have seen the same actors in character develop before our eyes.

The key scene for me was near the end, when Mason’s mother, played to perfection by Patricia Arquette, breaks down crying as he prepares to leave for college. She tells her son this “is the worst day of my life…do you know how long I have dreaded this day?” He then asks the question which you know I would tell him to ask: “What did you expect?” (I silently cheered, spilling my popcorn.) And mom’s response? “I thought there would be more.”

We are never told what “more” was she expected. Truth be told, she probably didn’t know, either. Like the Peggy Lee classic from the late ‘60’s, Is That All There Is?, we have a question that is asked more from emotional pain than from factual basis. We can be sitting in the midst of plenty, but we still ask, “is that it?” Perhaps the ultimate question of the existentialist who admits to existence, but comes up short as to why and what for.

Have you ever felt like that? “But I expected more.” You are surely not alone. Now, why not go back and think…what did you expect?

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (www.scarletcordpress.com).

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Helping our kids manage expectations.

recessions_survival_guide_kids_pm-thumb-270x270A young mom recently shared with me an incident with her son that showed how understanding expectations can help in parenting. This mom, (I’ll call her Angie, not her real name), was dealing with her seven year old, whose anger was ratcheting up by the minute. It had even come to the point of hitting and punching. In the midst on his outbursts and her growing frustration, she wisely stopped and asked him, “Do you want to do this?” His response gave some hope, since he stopped as well and replied, “No, mommy.”

Angie had recently been reading my book, so he brought the book to her as something to read to him. She told him, “this book reminds me of you”, which hooked him in to want to discuss this. “How come?” “Well, your anger seems to get out of control, but I don’t know what it is you expect.” Her son was quick to answer that, “Well, this morning you and dad said I couldn’t watch TV, but never said why. We usually get to watch TV every morning, so that made me mad.” His disappointment built into anger which percolated during the day and built to the rage she now faced.

Angie learned something: talk about expectations with your kids. Ask them what they expect, and why they expect it. Her son’s disappointment, which was real and understandable, set the tone for the day. It triggered the frustration and anger that ultimately resulted in his outburst.

Our children need to have a place to express their expectations, and we need to open that conversation by asking the question, “What do you expect?” When we find that out, we may be a lot closer to understanding what is behind their actions and behaviours. And to helping them gain some perspective and self control.

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© Brian F. Reynolds BFRspace 2014

“What do you expect? The question you need to ask!” is now available in paperback for $20 (Can) from Scarlet Cord Press (www.scarletcordpress.com).

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