Disappointment as a Diagnostic

leadership disappointmentDisappointment can actually be a powerful tool. Whether you are disappointed in yourself, someone else, or in an outcome, investigating it more deeply can actually provide a powerful access to increasing your effectiveness and producing outcomes you might have thought were no longer possible. Webster’s defines disappointment as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations.” I have also heard it defined as “politically correct anger” which suggests a higher degree of intensity to the experience. In any case it is an emotional response that can shape your thoughts and behavior in unproductive ways. Viewing disappointment as a diagnostic offers a different perspective, and perhaps a different way to deal with it.

I am not suggesting to think positively, ignore your emotions, or deny them.  Allow yourself the freedom to experience your disappointment and pay attention to its source. Ask yourself “what happened…or didn’t happen?”

The issue with disappointment is that you can feel like a victim of other’s choices, actions, or lack of action, and that leaves you powerless to leverage what has happened in a positive way. As a leader, feeling victimized by your team is not a leadership stance. You need to investigate your disappointment. Did you plan well enough to anticipate all of the challenges you would face? Did you communicate in a complete way and listen intently to the doubts and concerns of the rest of the team? Were you sure that everyone involved fully understood the goal, bought into the commitment, understood what it would take to fulfill it, and align on it? Is the disappointment in an outcome, (or lack thereof), or in a particular team member? How is that disappointment impacting your relationship with that team member? What were you expecting from the other person? Did they really know about your expectations? Did they ever promise to fulfill them? Without letting them know and/or getting their promise to fulfill the particular outcome, you are left to complain about their failures.

Take some time to reflect on the source of your disappointment and consider the questions above. Investigate where things broke down and see if you can identify your role in it. See if you can let go of wanting to place blame on circumstances or others’ behavior and try to be as objective about yourself and others in what happened as possible. See if you can honestly identify the gaps in your communication that contributed to the situation.

From this place of neutral observation and reflection you can course correct for the future.

photo credit: chiselwright via photopin cc