Bettina and her proud Dad in Sainsbury’s Restaurant 2023

It is 1993, Joyce and I are sitting at our dining table talking about our expectations for Bettina.  Like any other parents, when your children are incredibly young, we discuss and debate our hopes and dreams of what our daughter might become and what she could achieve.  We certainly did for our oldest daughter Jennifer, but Bettina was going to be a whole different ball game. Bettina had got off to a tough start, having had a diagnosis of autism, learning disability and epilepsy  with the additional challenge of being non-verbal with her communication.   

Joyce (a tiger mum for both of our daughters) and me knew that we would need to manage our expectations in respect of Bettina. We dreamed that one day she would be ‘verbal’ (even if it only amounted to a few key words), be able to read, to be able to tell us how she was feeling, to have fun and to feel loved.  At this stage we were not even sure if she knew how much she was loved and cherished.

We were going to move heaven and earth to ensure she would have an excellent quality of life – on her terms.  We had optimistic expectations and were prepared to be surprised by her.

“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”

Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The company I work for supports adults with a learning disability and we are due to hold interviews for a new Financial Advocate soon. One of those interview questions is  “How would you manage the expectations of the service provided by Dosh?”  We have observed from previous interviews that it is something candidates can stumble on so, with help from Bettina, here are some ideas I have learned from Bettina and if you follow these you may get maximum points!

Related.  Another example of Bettina helping with a tricky interview question:

Being Bettina’s Dad – Bettina’s approach to Decision Making – Leadership in the Raw

How Bettina likes to have her expectations managed

  1. To be clear and concise. I always think about the words I use so they avoid being misinterpreted.  Bettina will often get me to repeat what she expects and then listens very carefully to how I reply.  This is so that Bettina can confirm she has been understood and what the level of expectation will be. This could be about a future holiday or a purchase she wants to make.   
  2. To be honest.  Bettina will understand the limits of an expectation if you are honest about what you can do to achieve her goals.
  3. Kept up to date at every stage. Bettina finds this calming and it assures her that her expectation has not been forgotten or ignored.
  4. Outline planning. This always includes a deadline, and we always add a few contingency weeks/months to the deadline so we have a bit of ‘wriggle room’.
  5. To have a backup plan and/or a contingency in place. Not all expectations can be met so we pro-actively have an alternative or a selection of options that will meet Bettina’s expectations.  This was particularly important during Covid 19 lockdowns, especially when it came to our annual holidays. 

Related:  BEING BETTINA’S DAD. COMING OUT OF LOCKDOWN (IN WHITBY) – We Did it! – Leadership in the Raw

How Bettina manages my expectations:

  • Just because they are my expectations it does not necessarily mean they are shared by Bettina. 
  • Being delighted and surprised.  I remind myself not to underestimate her capabilities and determination, which means I often need to update my expectations of Bettina.
  • Bettina has high expectations of me which I will need to live up to for the rest of my life.  It is both a responsibility I carry and an honour I hold dear.
  • It is always a team effort.  As a family we are all mutually dependant on each other and this includes our expectations of each other.
  • She reminds me that we are going at her pace not mine. Therefore, I need to be patient as she will get there in the end. 

Related Being Bettina’s Dad. Patience is a Leadership Virtue – Leadership in the Raw

Managing people’s expectations.  Five things I have learned being Bettina’s Dad:

  1. Communicate clearly at the start of your endeavour and you will minimise the potential for disappointment or misunderstandings – both for the people participating in the activity and your colleagues.
  2. Be realistic about what you are promising.  I need to be able to deliver on what I have promised or said I am going to do. “Happiness is there when expectations meet reality.” –Debasish Mridha
  3. Under promise and over deliver!
  4. Building Trust.  Trust is a reward for fulfilling your role and delivering on expectations.  Results are everything!
  5. C.I.A.  Recognise there that when it comes to expectations there some things I can Control; some I can Influence and somethings I just have to Accept (outside of my control or influence). 

Related:   Being Bettina’s Dad: ‘Trust’ is a gift you must earn – Leadership in the Raw

A Sunday morning a family shopping trip to Sainsbury’s    

As Bettina and I use the escalator to the restaurant, Bettina starts to kiss the arm she is linking.  “Love you Dad” and I immediately feel life cannot get better than this.

Joyce is putting food in her shopping trolly and a child in the opposite trolly, whom Joyce has realised is on the spectrum, tries to get her attention by making ‘Pingu’ noises.  Joyce responds by speaking ‘Pingu’ to the child, much to the child and her mum’s amusement.  Mum:  “how did you know to do that?”  Joyce:  “I have had over 30 years of speaking “Pingu”! Your daughter just needs to hear you repeat it back to her.  That way, it confirms to her that she is being  understood and that her attempts at communication are acknowledged. Always acknowledge the communication as it will help her progress and give her the confidence to use words.”

Immediately the child’s Mum’s expectations change. Related –Pingu Best Moments