Think of your favorite teacher, your favorite boss or coach. Positionally they all could have demanded the best from you; after all they had positional influence on you due to their professional status. But chances are that’s not the reason you liked them so much. If you are anything like I am, your favorite boss or teacher was not the one who let you get by easily or gave you easy assignments. It was the one who not only expected much from you, but also inspired you to continue to grow and outperform your own standards.
Four years after arriving from Brazil with very little knowledge of English, I was asked to finish the last month of a senior-level Shakespearean course. I was surprised and shocked to be asked to lead the rest of the semester for several reasons, but the most compelling of them was the fact I was a student in the very class I was to take over.
The conversation with the professor who had fallen ill and could not finish teaching the course went something like this: “I’m very flattered, but do you realize I’m a student in your class and have never taken a Shakespeare before?” “Yes, of course, but I also know that you are a fast learner, I have seen you develop in the past few years and I’m certain you will do a great job with the few remaining classes. I have total confidence in you.”
I wasn’t sure I could do it, but after that speech I knew I, at least, had to try. And much to the surprise of my fellow classmates, I stood before them the next few sessions to work through the rest of the material, including drafting a final exam. Later on I found out that very experience was a catalyst in my having a full scholarship for my masters program at another university.
It’s easy to demand that people who work for us perform to our expectations; however, it is more effective to expect greatness from those under our watch while inspiring them to achieve it. Expectation without inspiration is hard labor, but expectation plus inspiration often produces greatness–the type of greatness we did not even know we were able to accomplish.
Who in your life used expectation and inspiration to move you to heights you did not know you could reach?