How many times have you felt that you have spent so much time trying to beat performance expectations that you have have actually blown it? That certain expectations need only to be met, and only certain others need to be exceeded?
This aspect about performance has always fascinated me. The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that it requires leadership of a different caliber to guide team members to realize this and be reassured that not all performance parameters can or need be exceeded. That sometimes, contribution, even by meeting expectations, does matter critically in the context of an organization’s shared purpose. And that, meeting expectations in such instances is a vital foundation to exceeding them later.
Most often, expectations are not deliverables. They are the vision of what the people involved want the final experience to be. And hence certain expectations are extremely tough to meet – and even tougher to do so consistently. The bar may have been set daringly, perilously and ambitiously high. One may be constrained for time or resources. Or there may be just no evenness in the way the odds are stacked.
How can we be seen as not making any of these as excuses for not perceptibly exceeding expectations? And how do we help our members to do so?
As managers, it actually starts with a responsibility to give our members the clarity of why their contribution matters, and how each of their responsibilities is an opportunity to make a difference.
Next, it means defining the specifications of the outcome and any possible expectations early. Give them the reassurance that you are not always looking for dramatic heroics in ‘going the extra mile’.
Encourage them to first deliver on what has been promised, then, do it again and again. Show them how to be happy when they do the work well to meet expectations. Support them to get into the groove for a consistent track record to build on their success. Guide and challenge them to go bigger and bigger. And finally, wow!
Exceeding expectations is not always about over delivering for the sake of doing so. Au contraire, it is really about doing well what we say we will. It is about feeling proud in keeping the bar high and jumping over it even if by a whisker, rather than keeping it low and vaulting incredibly high over it. It is about being agile to seize opportunities that present themselves for the additional touch of excellence.
As managers, wisdom lies in knowing that each of our members has their own idea and vision of what it means to be successful – and map it to how success looks like for the organization. To draw a clear line of vision of how they can achieve success as a team, and to empower them to exceed beyond this framework should they show the initiative to do so.
We deal with comfort levels of regular people whose workdays and emotions change constantly – on either side of the bridge that we are. The actual field of performance lies in the unerring “if” of meeting the goal – let us bring our team to trust this. Let us then open the field for them to display their “how well” as a measure of satisfaction. And in so doing, let us find ways and means for them to succeed with happiness.