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Are you expecting too much from your personnel?

Expectations can be the enemy of satisfaction and happiness, in both your professional and personal life


Recognize the benefit of different strengths and weaknesses in your team.


In today’s environment, it is hard to sustain a positive, happy atmosphere. It is hard. Not impossible. In fact, if you practice positive self-talk, you will find your attitude much improved. If your attitude improves, your performance will improve and your relationships will benefit.

Negativity can actually change your brain chemistry. Positive self-talk induces the brain to release endorphins, which reduce your perception of pain, while negative thinking stimulates cortisol production, which lowers hormones relating to control, calm and joy. Increased stress brings on its own health problems, including weight gain and systemic inflation.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs recognizes self-esteem as a basic human need. Self-esteem needs are those relating to personal value, rewards, awards, respect for yourself and respect from others. People with low self-esteem lack self-confidence in their ability to be successful and view their accomplishments as insignificant.

Change your thinking, change your life

Our thoughts and emotions shape our mindset and actions. Here are some actions you might consider to break the negativity habit and improve your attitude.

  1. Accept that you can’t change others. My wife Leslie and I went to marriage counseling 23 years ago. I still remember this statement from the counselor 23 years later; “Don’t try to change Leslie, because you might not like what she changes into.” I will admit that I have from time to time over the course of our marriage forgotten that advice, but she quickly brings me back to reality.
  2. Accept people for who they are and what they bring to the table. Each of us has good and bad character traits. Concentrate on the good traits and use them to encourage what you want from that person. If you can’t change your spouse, you can’t change your subordinates.
  3. Don’t worry so much about other people. If you don’t like someone as is, stay away from them. If you have people you deal with that suck the life right out of you, stay away from them. Expectations can be the enemy of satisfaction, even if you think your expectation is reasonable, such as having your firefighters be as motivated and committed as possible.
  4. Don’t expect others to be like you. I said one time, “I wish I had more people like me.” Jim Greeson, Indiana state fire marshal, and my boss at the time, responded with “no you don’t.” I thought about it for about 3 seconds and realized he was correct. I know my good and bad traits better than anyone. I quickly realized that I bring certain strengths to the table, but I also have weaknesses. If my team was exactly like me, the weaknesses would stop up from accomplishing many of our important tasks that I didn’t have the patience or desire to complete. Your expectations come from your personal experiences and biases. They are not necessarily reflective of others’ priorities. You probably don’t like being expected to do things that you don’t want to do, so don’t impose your expectations on others. If you don’t like their behavior, either accept it, or move on.
  5. Admit and learn from your mistakes. My father told me when I was a young man, “when you make a mistake, own it.” That advice has bared fruit on many occasions over the years. When you admit a mistake, learn from it. No one judges you as much as you judge yourself.

We live in a world with a lot of gray. There are not always answers or solutions that are resolved with a black or white decision. We like to think there is an objective reality. But guess what? Objective reality is an illusion. What one person thinks is the truth is not the truth for someone else. Your truth fits your position or status and how you view the world, but because you believe it to be true doesn’t make it so.

Change what you can (lose weight, make time for your children, go back to school, work on your marriage) and accept the things you can’t. As Bobby McFerrin said, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Chief John M. Buckman III served 35 years as fire chief for the German Township (Indiana) Volunteer Fire Department, and 15 years as director of the fire and public safety academy for the Indiana State Fire Marshal Office. He is the Director of Government and Regional Outreach for Buckman is a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and a co-founder of the IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Section. In 1996, Fire Chief Magazine named Buckman Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. Buckman is an accomplished photographer, a co-author of the Lesson Learned from Fire-Rescue Leaders, and the editor of the Chief Officers Desk Reference. He is also the owner of Wildfire Productions. Buckman is a member of the Fire Chief/FireRescue1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with Chief Buckman on LinkedIn or via email.