Raising Expectations

“A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstance and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to see it, own it, solve it, and do it” – Connors, Smith & Hickman in The Oz Principle.

Bad joke tellers know the entire joke inside and out. They have everything they need to succeed – the words, the pace, the set-up, everything, except one thing – timing. Failing to deliver the punchline at the appropriate time made a waste of all of the time learning, practicing – everything. Bad managers are much the same – they know the information, the goal and have the tips to succeed, they just fail to share them at the appropriate time. (Since I am sure all of you reading this are great managers, I am including the following hint in case you want to share with others who may not be great managers). HINT (It’s not after the people have failed). I know, tough to believe, but the tips on how to succeed at something are more useful BEFORE someone takes on the quest. 

We all play a role in progress. Thomas Edison has been quoted saying “Restlessness and discontent are the necessities of progress”. In many ways, this is what I am feeling right now – restlessness and discontent. We have a client that has an expectation of 90% where we are scoring between 98-99%. Our lowest score in the last year has been 95%. I want the client to raise their expectations to 95%. I was chatting with my brother about this. Hours passed like moments. It was about 2am Thursday night and I blurted out “I’ve always expected to get A’s. There was never a class I took where I didn’t think I could get an A.” What I meant was that 90% is like a low A, which most anyone could accomplish if they focused on it.

The funny impact of raised expectations is that if you expect excellence, and stay restless in pursuing it, you will usually accomplish it. You will continue to get rid of the obstacles and make it easier to succeed. If this client raises their expectation to 95%, and we meet the higher expectations, consider how much more difficult it is for another company to come in and perform at the new level. The uncommon sense is that raising expectations is the path to healthy growth. In a nutshell, its our growth strategy – find opportunities with clients and prospects where we can raise expectations. 

This is also a key component of our management philosophy. I expect excellence out of our teams and leaders. In the past, I’ve empowered them without close monitoring, allowing new definitions of success to become adopted. Now I have the undesirable project of unwinding the best intentioned redefinitions. I only want to do this once, so I am very active in building the clear definition of success and will be holding people to this. A man who joined our company a while back told me “Thank you for saving my life. I know we don’t talk like this to one another. I just want you to know that I know what you did for me.” He was a nice guy that was once wayward that we gave an opportunity to join our company. He worked hard and was restless in his goal to buy a house with a pool. Going above and beyond was his way to raise my expectations of him.  He worked hard and become a very dependable member of our team. He ended up getting that house he wanted and enjoyed these last 10 years more than any other time in his life. He raised his expectations of what his company could do for him and it delivered for him.

His recent passing was galvanized for me the importance of using the talents we have to raise expectations others have of us. He became a specialist at doing whatever physical work was needed. As a company, we need to add the skills that raise our clients expectations – physical presence, technical skills, analytical insights, creative approach in execution. We must appreciate, respect diversity in skills. As the company leader, I need faithful execution of our strategy. Faithful is a key word. I want straight A’s. I am restless with discontent and will create the progress needed. The improvements are happening, and will continue to happen. Change doesn’t happen without consequence. A tip prior to the journey – independence in thought belongs in brainstorm sessions not in execution.

Good luck in your journey! I hope this message prompts you to find areas to align with your partner/authority/team/client’s goals and find ways to raise their expectations.