If you have been the recipient of ever hearing “I’m disappointed …” in any given situation, these few words can be worse than many other detrimental outcomes or experiences a person can have. Especially when the person hearing this news is being led by another. Or perhaps if they felt like they were caught off guard by this information.
Even if someone expects to hear they have disappointed someone, it can really sting, and hearing these words themselves can be worse than any repercussions that might ensue. Typically for this sentiment to be expressed, the message being conveyed shouldn’t be a surprise, but when it is, there are other unfortunate factors contributing to this reality. One of them has to do with the recipient being either inexperienced, or potentially not being given the initial support required to avoid this message being delivered.
Another leading cause to hearing you have disappointed someone is the fact you may be unaware of either how your performance isn’t meeting the requirements of your leader or Sports Coach. Or your perception is disconnected from the reality of how others are perceiving your expected performance output. Being unaware doesn’t give you a pass or excuse from how or why you have disappointed someone, but it does give you and the person you heard this from a place to begin your next conversation.
The conversation you would be having will likely entail a timeline of the circumstances which led up to hearing about you disappointing someone. It should also include discussing whether your performance outcome was clearly understood. For instance, in a sales contract scenario this would be called an “upfront contract”. Also included in this conversation should be what led to having you derail from tracking towards having a successful outcome? There may have been multiple contributors, but both parties knowing this can also add to better understanding why there wasn’t a checkpoint to catch this derailment earlier?
As many of us have painfully experienced at some point in our leadership careers, we may have assumed what we thought was clearly understood and expected from someone or a team we are leading, but it wasn’t. Either the information relating to what was expected was unclear, or the person or team didn’t ask enough questions to have the outcome be clear. In either of these instances, both sides are at fault. Especially the leader if they didn’t do their part of properly overseeing the person or team along the course of either a project or seasonal outcome.
We can appreciate that taking a hands-off approach is certainly a type of leadership style. However, there should be some well understood rules of engagement for this management style to work well. It is also the responsibility of the leader to potentially adjust this style if at some point it appears not to be effective. The adjustment doesn’t have to be a severe one, but it should be reflective of how well the person or team they are leading is responding to this style.
Many people will tell you that hearing or learning about the fact they have disappointed someone can be crushing to hear this emotionally. When they hear, learn about, or read about the fact they have done this, the next steps in this scenario are critical for both the leader and recipients. Especially if both parties are interested in changing the direction they are currently heading. Depending on the severity of the disappointment will influence whether there will be potential to change the future opportunities which may or may not be granted.
Taking an optimistic approach to a scenario where a person or team disappointed their leader or sports coach, it will be imperative for both parties to accept the fact they will need to hit the imaginary “reset button”. In other words, to give a clear restarting point. A place of neutrality and a realistic expectation that the “disappointment” can be turned around. I’m not suggesting this is going to be easy, as the element of trust was likely damaged due to this outcome. However, also taking the approach that there are plenty of circumstances for people to make mistakes and to be forgiven for doing so, and given another chance will need to be part of having a potentially better outcome.
If you are wondering where to start after you and the person or team has hit the “reset button”, below are some suggestions for you to consider.
- After you have identified the point or points when the derailment caused the disappointment, come up with a plan which will both better support and prevent this from reoccurring.
- Agree to having more open and honest conversations about expected outcomes. Any areas which are even slightly “grey” should be brought into the black and white clarity area.
- Having regular times to communicate formally committed to on a schedule will be required for an agreed upon period, or it might need to become part of the “system” you craft to set others up for success as a leader or sports coach.
- Being consistent in all areas of how people work together should be agreed to, and they should all be reasonably attainable and not put in place to be punitive.
- Are there other people who should have been part of the success of the situation, team or person that caused the disappointment? If so, what will it take to reasonably include them in your “revised” success plan?
- Factor in whether you need to toggle between being both a leader/sports coach and mentor to “course correct”? This will likely be required, particularly if the person or team was unaware of how they caused or contributed to the disappointing situation initially occurring.
When someone is unknowingly disappointing others, they may not be fully at fault for doing so. Then again, they might be. In either scenario, there is always an opportunity to learn and benefit from the professional growth that will occur from addressing what happened. Make sure you are also mentally in a strong place to support this growth for those you are leading when you need to embark upon this journey.
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