Do you manage expectations?

This is so important. In fact, I will venture to say its everything in business and in life. There are three possible outcomes with expectations: (1) exceed expectations; (2) meet expectations; or (3) miss expectations. Two out of three possible outcomes help you maintain clients, customers and business, while the last one likely will lose business or damage relationships.

It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver. An example of this is when I tell a client I will have draft or project complete by a certain date. If I deliver it before the date I told them I have exceeded the expectation I set for them. If I deliver it on the date I said I met their expectation. If I get it to them after that date, I have missed their expectation, which I was in control of when I gave them the date originally. I know where I want to be when I have set the expectation and we all know what we think when someone else does so, such as when your car will be ready when in the shop to how long a doctor’s appointment will take.

And expectations in other areas, such as cost or fees, are incredibly important to manage. If you tell a customer a number or range, the cost better come in under or up to the number or within the range. Go under and you are a hero. Go over and you are a goat. You will be left making excuses for the cost and probably will end up cutting your bill. If you know the cost is going to be more than what you quoted, call them the minute you know and explain why. And get direction on how or if they want you to proceed. If you don’t, you do so at your own peril.

Sometimes things happen for innumerable reasons and you know you will not meet a deadline. What do you do? You call your customer and let them know, right away. And you then reset their expectations with a new deadline you believe you can and will meet. Having to reset expectations once in a while likely won’t harm your business, but if you make it a regular practice you do so, again, at your own peril.

So manage expectations well and you will have better client and customer relationships. Don’t, and you likely will have less client and customer relationships to worry about.

 

 

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Don’t talk too much!

We all know that person, the one you meet in a business or personal setting who cannot stop themselves from dominating a conversation or room. They don’t let anyone else say much. When the conversation or meeting is over, you know too much about them assuming they spoke about themselves, which most people like that do, or too much of their personal opinions, and we all know the saying about opinions and everyone having one. On the other hand, they may not even remember your name and didn’t let you speak enough to learn about you to have anything substantive to remember.

I read an article recently about annoying personalities on display at all networking events. That author had nicknames for various types of characters she encountered. It made me think of different types of people. The person I describe above can be referred to as the “Chatterbox.” The Chatterbox may be that way for a number of reasons such as (1) ego; (2) lack of self-awareness; or (3) social awkwardness. The reason doesn’t matter, but what you should do does: exit the conversation.

When meeting someone for the first time for business make sure you try learn more about their background and their business versus what you speak about and share. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share about you and your business, but if you focus on asking questions and learning about them, you will put yourself in a place to make a possible connection and know they aren’t walking away thinking you talk too much and don’t really care about what they do or have to say.

A great resource I work with passed on a link to a good article on this subject last year. The author of the article wrote about what he referred to as the Traffic Light Rule. It is another method to use to avoid talking too much. The gist is that the light is green the first twenty seconds you are speaking, yellow for the next twenty seconds and at the forty second mark the light turns red. If you play through that red light, bad things can and do happen.

So don’t be a Chatterbox or run red lights and you will put yourself in a better position to have meaningful interactions.

Here is the link to the article referenced above – How to Know if You Talk too Much by Mark Goulston: https://hbr.org/2015/06/how-to-know-if-you-talk-too-much.

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Success Does Not Happen Overnight

“Overnight success” is a cliché we all are familiar with. But in the real world most overnight successes have put in their time and you don’t even realize it. For instance, most people look at the Beatles as an overnight success. Actually their rise to the top took approximately five years, thousands of hours of practice and hundreds of live performances. To think they didn’t put in the time and sacrifice to get to the top is shortsighted and wrong.

Their first UK number 1 was in May 1963 and their first US number 1 was in January 1964, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957. Thereafter, Lennon asked McCartney to join the Quarrymen, who, other than Lennon, were not very good musicians. In 1958, after lots of practice and many shows, George Harrison joined the group. By 1959, only the three future Beatles remained in the band.

In 1960 they renamed themselves the Beatles. After that they went to Hamburg, Germany for a good amount of the time between August 1960 through December 1962. During that time they lived in one cramped room with a bathroom down the hall and practiced for endless hours each day, while playing clubs at night. They put in hard work and sacrificed to improve their skills. Obviously it worked for them.

You are asking yourself, “okay, but what does this mean to me?” It is this type of investment in and commitment to whatever you are doing, whether alone or in a group, that gives you the best chance to succeed in any field. I could have told you the same story about entrepreneurs, professionals, etc. from every industry, but the Beatles work because everyone thinks their success was immediate when it wasn’t, and don’t realize the time and energy they invested in themselves leading to that success.

And that is the usual route. Hard work doesn’t guaranty success, but it gives you a much better shot. So plan your strategies for your business, career, networking, marketing, whatever you are doing, regularly and think long term. Ask most successful people you know and you will get a good story about what it took to reach where they are and that they continue to try to improve, because staying on top of the mountain is as hard as reaching the summit.

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Be on time

Be on time. Yes, it is that simple. Everyone’s time is valuable. We all have one more thing we can do before walking down the hall for that scheduled meeting or leaving to make it on time to that lunch meeting. What this really boils down to is that we all need to honor our commitments.

When you show up late you are saying “what I was doing is more important than being on time for you.” If it is worth scheduling, it must be worth showing up on time, right? If not, then you need to question why you scheduled the meeting. Sometimes it is not your choice and those above you require you to attend yet another meeting you think is a waste of time.

If that is the case you should think about what you are saying to your superiors by showing up on time or not (or not paying attention such as checking your phone…). If you are not showing up on time you may on purpose or by mistake be sending a non-verbal message about what you think. And that may stick in the mind of your superior and will it affect your ability to move up through the ranks in the future? Do you want to take that chance?

Like him or loathe him, Woody Allen has a great quote on this: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Again, it is simple: be on time.

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Manage, Don’t Micromanage

Some people who manage other people micromanage them because they have the need to control what their subordinates or employees do. There can be good reasons such as safety or training. Or maybe the end product is going out in the name of the higher up or under the name of the company they own or manage. In those cases the end product, whether a letter or a widget, reflects on the company, its owner or whoever is sending it out. But having control of the end product is different from micromanaging the process for that end product.

You may think you have the best way to manufacture the widget or are a better writer than whoever is drafting something your that will go out under your name. But if you train your people well and then let them control the process, amazing things can happen. George S. Patton said “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” This is how products or processes are improved because innovation happens when people have a starting point and an ending point, but also have the opportunity to think outside of the box.

So the next time you want to tell you employee or subordinate how to do something for you, maybe you should try telling them what you need and let them carve the path. You will either get the same end result as if you micromanaged them, or be surprised by what they come up with. Either way you get what you want, but one path leave the door open for innovation, as well as employees who know you trust them to do their job.

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Who is your customer or client?

Of course the answer to this question is dependent on what you do, but if you don’t start by answering this question you will miss out on opportunities. The answer, based on your line of work, may be a type or category of businesses or  categories or people.

Some sales people think the answer is anyone and everyone, but it isn’t. On the surface, if you are in pharmaceutical sales it is doctors or medical practices or if you are a pool installer it is home builders or homeowners. It is important to start with the big picture and then narrow it down so you can come up with reasonable marketing and networking strategies. If you are the pharmaceutical salesperson, your company may assist with this by assigning you a region of a city, state or the country and providing leads. If you are the pool installer, you have to choose the geographical area you can reasonably cover with your crew(s), let alone the number of projects you can work at one time without causing delay and upsetting customers, before deciding how to market to your audience of potential customers.

Some professions, including attorneys, accountants and financial planners, have a different answer. We all have the skills to help many types of businesses and people, but a wise man I know told me something years ago about who your clients are likely to be, which still holds true today: look in the mirror. What he meant is that you are naturally going to connect to people similar to you, whether in age range, family background, interests, etc. We all know personal connection helps or causes us to make choices a lot of the time.

Where this leaves you is to remember, no matter your business or profession, you need to have a plan and strategy for your marketing and networking. If you have no plan, you have no plan, and you will have hits and misses, though likely more misses, because you are leaving your business to luck or casting too wide a net (a wide net has large holes for potential business to slip through!). It also helps to put your plans on paper, with short term and long term ideas, plans and goals.

If you start by defining who is your customer or client and drill down from there you increase your chance for success. So start today because there is no time like the present!

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Say what you mean through direct and honest communication

A lot of people sugarcoat what they say to save other’s feelings. This is good in theory, but detrimental to your business. If you cannot have honest, hard conversations with your peers and employees, what does that say about your business? What are you training them to do or be (or not)?

It reminds me of a quote someone sent me yesterday from Zig Ziglar: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them.” Right! If you can’t be honest with peers and employees that will be an element of your company’s cultural, and a bad one, and you are headed for lower results.

I have heard hard conversations referred to as “courageous conversations.” The truth is they are hard or difficult conversations usually dealing with a performance issue, an attitude issue, a disagreement on an important business issue or deal, or something similar. These types of conversations need to happen in a timely manner to have the best effect.

There is a mountain of information online and numerous books on this topic. What they generally say is that as part of sharing negative information, you also should accentuate the positive. If you manage people you should read and speak to others to learn how to have hard conversations, which do not come naturally for most people. That is how you can make difficult conversations constructive and a benefit to you, the other person and your business.

Of course, you can and should tailor what you are going to say based on who you are speaking with. But don’t make sugarcoating important matters part of your company’s culture or nothing will change and opportunities will be lost.

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Patience: Think Before Speaking

Just because the thought comes into your head does not mean it should come out of your mouth. In many situations, it matters what you say next. When that is the case, you must think before saying anything. This does not mean uncomfortable, long silences before responding. Instead, it means you need to plan for important conversations, negotiations or presentations, and to think on your feet.

This can be difficult in emotionally charged situations. But those are the type of situations when patience is most required.

This was brought home to me recently when an opposing attorney answered a judge’s question too fast and before the judge had finished his question. In doing so, the attorney not only failed to answer the question the judge actually asked, he blurted out information that the judge later used against his other arguments. This really happened.

After speaking too fast and, I can only assume, without thinking about what he was saying, grasping for an answer, it became obvious the attorney was arguing two sides of the coin. It probably will not shock you that this was obvious to the judge and that it caused the issue on which the attorney had a weak case to look like a failure and the issue on which he had a slightly better case to lose its shine. The judge has not issued a ruling yet, but I think it is likely that that the attorney’s failure to think before speaking, let alone not letting the judge finish his question, probably lost his client any chance of succeeding on either of his positions.

Don’t let this be you. Always plan for important conversations, negotiations or presentations. If you are not sure of an answer to a question, it is better to admit that. And if you do answer, think before the words come out of your mouth. If you do these things, there is a much better chance your conversations will go well and you will avoid putting your foot in your mouth.

And, it should go without saying, let people finish their thought or question before responding. If your mouth is open your ears are shut.

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Perseverance

Perseverance is everything. There is no excuse to ever give up. If you doubt this, you either have had success handed to you, which happens rarely, if ever, or you come up against trying to reach a goal and pivot instead of pushing through to reach your desired result. You may even describe your pivot as a strategic change of plans based on adjusting to the circumstances. Or is it an excuse because reaching your goal was too hard? In approaching goals or difficult situations, attitude and outlook can help guide your actions and decisions.

Most of us know this. Sometimes we are reminded as I was reading an article on ESPN this past weekend. It is named Rise Above and is about Zion Shaver. Of course right now you are asking yourself “Who is Zion Shaver?” I will tell you: he is the type of person you should be thinking about when you think things are too hard or you don’t think you have the energy to continue to try and reach a goal. Zion is an 88 pound high school senior wrestler in Ohio who was born without legs. You read that correctly. Wrestler. 88 pounds. No legs.

Reading this article did not make me feel sorry for Zion; It made me respect and admire this young man. And it inspired me. We all wonder how we would react or cope if we contracted a horrible disease or had life and body altering injuries or otherwise were in a place where we were considered to be disabled. I hope never to find out personally, but if it is me I will think of Zion and try to make the most of the situation. I plan to keep Zion in mind when I am working on difficult goals in my professional or personal life and to share his story to inspire others I mentor or work with.

Read the article and tell me you are not inspired by his story, his accomplishments and his outlook on life. Tell me you doubt that he will achieve success in his future schooling and when he enters the workforce. You can’t, because, with his attitude and outlook, it is impossible to bet against him.

Where will it take you if you adopt the same attitude and outlook, and persevere when attempting to reach your goals?

Rise Above: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15273815/the-unbelievable-story-high-school-wrestler-zion-shaver

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Work/life balance it too important to ignore

Are you the workaholic each of us knows? You know the one. Checking email from the time waking up to checking their phone when they are at lunch with you (rude, by the way) to checking it up until they go to sleep. Every social opportunity is really a networking opportunity with people they probably would not socialize with. Conversations relate to business, money, etc. You are not sure what their interests are other than work and making money. Or is this you?

It is no secret that hard work is required for success. And there are times you must work harder than others and longer hours. Getting ahead does not come easy. But, as important as giving your all for your career or business, there has to be down time to. No, I don’t mean sleep.

What do you do for fun? What do you do for stress release? If you have to even think about the answer to either of these questions you need to rethink your priorities. Working hard until you die will only result in one result. And we all know someone who was a workaholic because they were going to retire young and didn’t make to retirement for reasons that are not pleasant. While fun is important, stress relief really is a required part of all of our lives.

If you question what I just said, talk to your doctor. Your stress relief doesn’t need to be training for a marathon or triathlon, but you need to put physical activity in your routine. Your body and brain will thank you for it as you age.

As for fun, it really is a requirement too. It could be sewing or playing an instrument, travelling, participating in a book club, etc. or a combination of many things. But you need to find things you enjoy that are wholly unrelated to work. Without doing so, you will have no balance and the odds of burnout or something worse increase exponentially.

Plus, the more things you do outside of work, the more you have to speak about the next time you are networking…..

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