We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

—Aristotle, 384–322 BCE

At the heart of every relationship – personal or professional, intimate or casual – are expectations. Aristotle’s observation about human behavior and motivation speaks to the essence of leadership. As a leader, it is our habits that determine the expectations we create and the experience that we deliver. Those behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, place us and our teams on a path towards excellence or meandering towards mediocrity.

Experience versus Expectation

The Architecture of Highly-Effective Teams: Exceptional Team Leaders and Key Relationships

At the heart of any relationship – whether personal or professional, intimate or casual – are expectations. Expectations form the baseline of how we judge and respond to our experiences. It is our experiences versus those expectations that affect the direction of our key relationships. Are we energized and engaged, or disengaged? Is our relationship developing or deteriorating? The more important the relationship, the more powerful the experience versus expectation dynamic. Think about an expectation that your spouse, partner, or boss has of you. Now consider what happens when the experience you deliver falls short of that expectation. Gaps between what we expect and what we experience, particularly across key relationships, affect our energy, motivation, and engagement. In the context of work, those key relationships are with our team leader/manager, teammates, and co-workers across other teams (especially those we rely upon to achieve our goals). Measuring, understanding, and closing experience-expectation gaps across key relationships is essential to building and sustaining energized, highly-effective teams.

The One Habit

Whether through instinct, or good training and coaching, exceptional team leaders have developed the habit of understanding and consistently closing experience-expectation gaps across key relationships. This habit sits at the core of a team architecture that includes a working knowledge and application of individual and team motivation, along with solid team fundamentals. Exceptional team leaders understand that the heart of a team is made up of relationships. The health of those relationships, more than any other dynamic, determines the level of engagement and effectiveness of their team. Reflecting upon Aristotle’s wisdom, those team leaders demonstrate the discipline and perseverance to ensure that excellence becomes a habit.

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