Two-Way Streets

In every family or personal relationship, we place both spoken and unspoken expectations on one another.  There are also expectations in play in every professional contract and interaction.  We perform a service or provide goods to others, and we expect payment or consideration.

Expectations affect every aspect of our lives.  It’s appropriate to have expectations or needs; and it’s appropriate and normal to want our expectations to be addressed with people in our lives. In fact, I’d argue that failing to acknowledge and address our expectations can leave us unsatisfied and unfulfilled in all aspects of our lives.  

What are expectations?  When we have expectations, we assume or hope that something will happen given a particular set of circumstances.  An example of this: when we were kids, the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” song encouraged us to be good so Santa would deliver gifts at Christmas.  As human beings, we come to count on the ‘expectation/results equation.’  Our behavior and motivation can be positively or adversely affected depending on how that equation balances out.

“What prompted you to write this article?” you ask. Well, I had the good fortune to have dinner recently with a dear friend who is a transportation supervisor here in New York.  Joining our table was her successor who shared that she had discussed with the school superintendent what HER expectations were of him.  This, of course, in addition to what would be his expectations of her.  But she felt that the honest transaction at that point in their emerging school relationship would be to share her needs and expectations as well.  Hence the title “Two-Way Streets.”

And the EUREKA light bulb went off!

This young professional reflects what is truly an inflection point in workplace relationships. Today’s workers, especially those in professional careers, are flexing their muscles in many ways and their co-workers and managers are taking note.  (Note: Authorities such as McKinsey and Price Waterhouse Coopers report that 75-77% of people who quit jobs do so because of leadership or stress with their supervisors!)  Take, for example, the recently recognized phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ where employees continue to perform their required duties but do not put in extra time or stray too far from their job descriptions. While that’s an over-simplified definition, you get the picture.  We might have called it working to rule in the past.  In a tight labor market, such tactics and styles can be impactful. 

Because we work in a safety-sensitive environment where we are all deeply dedicated to child safety, we may not be seeing such trends as quiet-quitting and similar.  While that’s the case, there is no question that the levels of stress (and burn-out) are increasing, and they were high before.  In that context, being honest about our own needs and expectations becomes a necessary part of survival.

Once I decided to write on this topic, I reached out to our emerging supervisor and asked her to share more of her thoughts on this. In response, she shared many thoughts about the many expectations placed on transportation teams, including and especially our bus drivers.  She had much to say about expectations in relation to her own superintendent.  I share an excerpt here to give an honest flavor for her message and her concept of leadership:

The superintendent is the leader of the entire school. They should be doing everything they can to lead and support all staff and students. I know the superintendent has a lot on their plate. But here are a few expectations of superintendents that sometimes I think are forgotten. 

They should be expected to show up at sporting events to support and cheer on our students … they should be expected to come in early and help if needed to make sure the parking lot, sidewalks etc. are clear in the winter … they should be expected to help clean up the school when we are short a cleaner… they should be expected to ride a bus in the morning and know the routes the buses take. That might seem extreme, but it’s part of the job. It’s part of being the leader of the entire school.

In that kind of position where you can be a leader, don’t let it turn into bossing people around, use it towards your advantage and lead by example. That helps motivate everyone who’s working for you to put their best foot forward, and to be proud of their work.

It’s likely that none of us expect the superintendent to pick up a push broom and clean the hallways, but all have seen that happen and we would be impressed by that happening.  And on the sports example, I know when I go to school events and see the superintendent cheering the teams on, I get a good feeling.  The idea is for the leader to view themselves as part of the overall team and to let the team know they can be counted on and are dedicated to all aspects of the school community. In our world, that would include that superintendent spending time with the transportation staff to signal their investment in the work of transporting our kids safely. 

It’s important to place expectations in the context of your own professional goals.  This allows you to share your own directions and aspirations with your supervisors and to express how their support and involvement will enable you to pursue your goals.  Ultimately, your success has an impact on the overall success of the operations and on child safety. So it should be important to them.

And now to flip the discussion on its head…as supervisors, it’s important to give your own teams the emotional room to share their own expectations with you too!  That two-way street with a superintendent or business official goes back the other way where you are the upline supervisor and where others have expectations of you.  

My ‘source’ has a broad view of leadership that is refreshing.  Hers was an honest view from someone just coming onto the scene as a school administrator.  Let’s hope that, as she moves up her career ladder, this honesty and candor continues to lead her to do good things.

My hope is that each of our readers will take a few moments to reflect on your own expectations of yourself and your team and those who lead your school or company.  Have you shared those expectations?  Have you challenged yourself to address your own expectations of yourself?  Having these discussions with ourselves is an important part of keeping ourselves healthy and prepared for what the job will throw at us.  

My expectation is that you will read this, and it will make you think and help you move forward as the next school year approaches with all its own expectations of you!

Peter Mannella ( is chair of the NAPT Public Policy Committee.