A Coaching Power Tool By Miranda Meng, Leadership Coach, TAIWAN
Definition of Expectation vs. Opportunity
People are affected by perspectives. I created a power tool to support clients to shift from the view of expectation to opportunity.
What Is an Expectation?
As per Collins Dictionary, an expectation is a strong hope or belief about the proper way someone should behave or something should happen. To understand expectations further, we can see where strong hopes or beliefs come from. Considerable research on consumer expectations shows that expectations are developed based on past experiences. (Curtin, 2019) Judgments are also a component of Expectations. Judgments are based on the situational salience of the particular things we are looking at and the cognitive accessibility of our own schemas and attitudes. (Hirt, Kardes, & Markman, 2004)
Expectations are highly related to our beliefs and judgments and are formed by our own past experiences. This leaves limited space for us to move from the scenarios of “should” in our minds. If things end up in a space not aligned with our expectations, we usually feel disappointed, surprised, or even sad or angry.
What Is an Opportunity?
The definition from Collins Dictionary an opportunity is “…a situation in which it is possible for you to do something that you want to do; a favorable, appropriate, or advantageous combination of circumstances.” Opportunities espouse with the view of possibility and the mind’s readiness to take a risk and try new methods for something we favor.
How to Set Clear Expectation vs. Opportunity
What Happens When We Stay on Track With an Expectation?
An expectation not only triggers emotional reactions, but also influences people’s perceptions, thoughts, and actions. Neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) even discovered distinctive brain signals that prove how human beings are affected by expectations. Especially under uncertainty, human brains use these signals to make judicious decisions. (Trafton, 2019) It shows an optimal strategy for human beings to react faster.
When we form expectations stemming from strong hopes and beliefs, we may become biased regardless of what the information at hand is displaying. This is because our brain corrects its own imprecision to better fit the expectation we set. Therefore, increasing our awareness to sense if any expectation is attached to our responses can be beneficial to assess our own biases.
The aforesaid bias stemming from expectations is also present in the phenomenon of Anchoring and Adjustment. Anchoring and Adjustment entail that people tend to give more weight to their initial thoughts and opinions, even after a thoughtful evaluation. (Stangor, Jhangiani & Tarry, 2022) It is well adapted to consumer marketing. When we see a price tag starting in a fashion like “10.99 8.99”. Seeing this, consumers would feel the price of 8.99 is actually lower. This psychological reaction forms the thought that product sellers want consumers to think. We can take highlight the importance of awareness and infuse flexibility in our thought and pattern so we can reduce the impact of Anchoring and Adjustment and the frequency to become biased.
What Is the Benefit of Moving to a Zone of Opportunity?
A zone of opportunity is actually where we infuse flexibility in our mechanisms. It is where perceptions of opportunity are formed before the potential negative biases of expectations kick in. This creates space for many things to happen and for us to embrace a growth mindset. For example, if things do not come to pass the way we hoped for, we can ask ourselves some questions to keep the growth mindset space from being immediately influenced by expectations. Questions like “what does this bring to us? How can we make use of this situation so that I am best served?” How does this help us to move our focus to create values instead of immersing ourselves in emotional reactions?
This mechanism transfers us to a value-added model and positions us in a proactive posture. We give ourselves chances to learn from each situation and to be open-minded. That helps us build a growth mindset. (Dweck, 2016)
How Can a Coach Support the Client in Shifting Perspective vs. Opportunity?
Evoking the Client’s awareness of the pattern associated with expectations is critical to identifying the root causes of challenges. To trigger a change in perspective, a Coach may need to support clients to uncover topics deeper below. According to Virginia Satir, a psychotherapist recognized as the Mother of Family Therapy and known for the Virginia Satir Change Process Model, there are seven key points underneath certain behaviors that are influential. The coping stance, for instance, is a behavior pattern when the person experiences stress. It is something easier to see from the outside. The other points are deep down in the water and mutually affect each other. They are feelings, feelings about feelings, perceptions, expectations, yearning, and self.
After a Coach supports the Client to recognize how they are affected by unfulfilled expectations, the Client may still linger in regret, or specifically the feeling of disappointment from not meeting an expectation. This would be a good time to realign the Client with a bigger picture of the person they identify themselves to be in the vision of their lives. (Or a bigger topic that is behind the conversation you two work on together, such as career, relationship, or health) To help the Client see how they can be served better to realize the vision they have of themselves is what a Coach can do.
After alignment, it may be a good time to recognize the Client’s effort during the session. If this fits the Coach’s instinct, invite Clients to show appreciation to themselves based on their own will. While the Client is in a state of comparatively positive feeling, the Coach can further support the Client to see how to apply their new perspective and learning. With this exploration, clients may re-engineer themselves so that they can realize the vision they have for themselves.
Example questions to support the shifting process in a coaching session
- I heard a lot of “should” in your sharing. What expectations are not fulfilled here?
- How do you feel when this expectation is not satisfied?
- How do these expectations actually impact you on your journey to achieve the goal?
- How does this person’s behavior conflict with your rule or belief?
- If you have a magic wand, how would you turn this into an opportunity to realize your goal?
- Who do you need to be so you can realize your life/career/relationship/health vision?
- If this is actually an opportunity for you, how would you see yourself being benefited from it?
- How would you like to use this opportunity?
- When similar conflicts happen again, how could you remind yourself to see the opportunity to realize your goal?
- How can you remind yourself to focus on opportunities in life?
No matter in the business world or in personal lives, expectation draws a period while opportunity leads us to a new paragraph. We tend to close a conversation or quickly comment on an unfavored situation when we are in the expectation mode. While from the opportunity point of view, we open doors to collect more information, learn, and focus on what we can create.
This tool does not suggest we erase all expectations we have. Instead, it is an invitation to increase awareness and utilize the time when our expectations are not satisfied. This not only gives us chances to turn a disappointing moment into a path to get closer to our goals but also forms chances to know ourselves more and to connect with others. During the process, we would clarify that the situation we are in is objective, learn how other stakeholders think and feel, and together maybe we co-create something better. A bonus would be to innovate is in this circumstance. Why not give ourselves a try to experience this perspective shift?
Collins Dictionary. (n.d.) Expectation. In Collins Dictionary.com dictionary. Retrieved February 2, 2022
Collins Dictionary. (n.d.) Opportunity. In Collins Dictionary.com dictionary. Retrieved February 2, 2022
Curtin, R. (2019). Consumer Expectations: Micro Foundations and Macro Impact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9780511791598
Dweck, C. (2016), What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means, Harvard Business Review, Retrieved February 2, 2022
Hirt, E. R., Kardes, F. R., & Markman, K. D. (2004). Activating a mental simulation mindset through the generation of alternatives: Implications for debiasing in related and unrelated domains. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(3), 374–383.
Stangor, C., Jhangiani, R., Tarry, H. (2022), Principles of Social Psychology-1st International H5P Edition, Ch 2
Trafton, A. (2019). How Expectation Influences Perception, MIT News, Retrieved February 2, 2022