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Expectations and Success as a Leader


I recently overheard a small group of business leaders commiserating about a project that wasn’t proceeding as well as anticipated. They all seemed to be in a spirit of supporting one another, as we so often do when we trust colleagues with our frustrations and complaints. This can be healthy, of course, the opportunity to just get some air time to vent with people who will listen and empathize. However, it has been my observation that all too often the venting turns into nothing more than sharing of complaints with no real improvement plan forward.

The example I recently witnessed ended in an over-arching statement that blew me away. One of the leaders at the table grabbed the attention of us all by saying, “You know what I have found? When I expect everything and attach to nothing, opportunities and possibilities tend to present themselves.”

Mic drop!

“Expect everything and attach to nothing” is related to a fundamental coaching principle I strive to practice in each and every coaching conversation I have. Hearing this from a leader in a casual, otherwise negative “complaint session” resonated strongly with me and underscored the power of expecting everything!

Great coaches practice what’s called “Detached Involvement.” Detached involvement is when we are fully engaged and involved with the other person or people, yet we are not attached to their outcomes or how they get to their outcomes.

I want to pause here, as this is one of the most powerful attributes a coach and leader can develop – and it’s not easy. As a matter of fact, considering myself a decent coach at minimum, I often find myself attaching to my clients’ outcomes. I start to invest emotionally and tell myself that I care, which gives me permission to attach. You care as a leader, too, so investing emotionally in your people is part of the job, right? Not exactly.

Detaching from the outcome when possible for the sake of developing others is the context here. We should and do care, absolutely. However, if as a leader or coach we hold the desire to develop others to their full and highest potential, acting as a guide more than a teacher or director helps lead people to that potential. Allowing the space for their answers, their methods and their way is huge for their development.

In preparation for this blog I researched Googled the phrase “Expect everything, attach to nothing,” and found a decent number of good articles, blogs and content. The phrase is most commonly cited to mindset coach, power lifter athlete and author Carrie Campbell. Other authors commonly preface “Expect everything, attach to nothing” with “lowering your expectations is the worst advice you can give or live by.” I expected to hear that type of advice when listening to the small group of leaders the other day. I expected to hear, “Just don’t expect so much.” I was thrilled that I didn’t.

When we release our need to be the expert or to lead someone down a particular path that has worked for us, and simply hold the space for the other person through engaged listening and asking powerful, open questions, we practice detached involvement. I think the spirit of expecting everything and attaching to nothing is the heart of the matter for leaders developing other and new leaders. Are you that kind of leader? Do you want to be?

Emergent offers coaching services to clients all over Central New York. We train teams and leaders in various subjects as well. As we practice detached involvement as trainers and coaches, we are (metaphorically speaking) meeting our clients where they are, while seeking the best paths forward for them. We could easily push our expertise onto others but that’s a lesser service.

If you’re interested in developing a coaching culture at your organization, if developing high performing teams and leaders is an organizational goal, let me know. I would cherish the discovery opportunity with you and your team!

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