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Never Exceed Expectations – It’s A Losing Play

It’s like those one-in-a-million games when the quarterback cuts loose a Hail Mary Pass that’s snagged in the end zone to win the game. Everyone’s expectations are exceeded but it’s a desperation play – thrilling but far too dangerous. You can never count on it. The extreme effort might win one game but the team with a reliable, solid, can-do work ethic wins the season. Face it, exceeding expectations is a bad business plan.

Expectations – they’re the easiest thing to have and the hardest thing to meet. Expectations aren’t a deliverable. They are what the people involved want the outcome to be. Expectations are their vision of the final results and experience.

We want customers, clients, employees, friends and family to be happy and satisfied. Being natural-born overachievers, we are determined to exceed expectations … to blow them out of the water. Toss that Hail Mary Pass – dazzle, amaze and astonish people until there’s not a dry seat in the house!

Never exceed expectations – not now, not ever, NEVER!

Did I make that clear?

Under-Promising and Over-Delivering are Suicide

Unless you are prepared to over-deliver on the specifications and the budget every time … forever … don’t do it. Otherwise, your exceptional effort becomes the new standard. When “under-promise and over-deliver” becomes a business practice, it ultimately means that the expectations are set intentionally low so it’s easy to achieve them.

Expectations Are Human – Not Business

Expectations are emotional and aren’t always based on logic – they are founded on feelings. How do you exceed an emotion? You don’t.

Reality #1 – Expectations are different from the specifications.

Everyone has them, they are all different, and they don’t have anything to do with the requirements or the details on an Excel spreadsheet.

Reality #2 – Expectations change.

Expectations aren’t always clear to the person having them. They get tangled up with ego. Odds are, there are unspoken ones that will just pop up as the job proceeds.

Reality #3 – No one knows 100% of their expectations up front.

They can’t anticipate how they will feel or react as a project unfolds. You know this is true if you’ve ever heard someone say, “This isn’t the way I thought this would look.”

Have you ever noticed that, when things go according to plan, no one ever worries about managing expectations? It only when things start circling the drain that you hear that term. So managing expectations is really just another way of saying “damage control” and trying to deal with disappointment.

Meeting Expectations is Enough!

Instead of trying to exceed expectations, here’s a process for meeting them so people feel truly satisfied with the results.

1. Define the specifications and any possible expectations early.

Communicate a clear understanding of the scope of the project or experience.
Make sure you know the specs and expectations all the way to the top.
What does the boss expect?
Do the people you are working with know what the boss expects?
Confirm the understanding.

2. Communicate consistently.

Communicate the factors that make it possible to meet the expectations.
Know what you need, when you need it and the “hard deadlines.”
Determine: What happens if you don’t get the above?
Don’t assume everyone knows what’s going to happen next.
Recognize that there is no such thing as knowing too much about a project.

3. Ask questions, lots of questions.

100% of blown expectations were because someone was afraid to ask questions or raise an issue.
No one was ever fired for asking questions. Millions have been fired for assuming answers.
You can’t meet expectations you don’t know about or don’t understand.
Ask for information and reactions along the way. How do they feel things are going?

Don’t Disappoint Them

You are dealing with the comfort levels of regular people whose workdays and emotions change constantly. Reactions are always in context of whatever else is happening. You’ll never be able to anticipate everything everyone wants. It’s enough to simply not disappoint them.

Be Consistently Consistent

Ask questions, learn enough, do enough and be flexible enough to keep people happy. Remember, expectations aren’t a deliverable. They aren’t the project requirements. They are what people want the outcome to be. Expectations are their vision of the final results and experience.

Give people what they want, how they want it and make them feel informed, comfortable and reassured along the way. You can’t do better than that.

If you want to know more about how to please your customers, clients and audiences just click on CONTACT US and get in touch.

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Content Drives Creative

About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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