March 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Meeting Expectations…

The Relentless Pursuit of Average

Meeting expectations -- this concept has been bantered around the business world for years; actually, the concept is flawed.

The problem with meeting expectations is that with anything less -- just one degree less -- the experience is mediocre and rapidly degrades from there.

Here's a simple example: If you're on time for an appointment, you meet expectations. If you're one minute late, you blew it.

Meeting expectations is about delivering on your promise -- to everyone including yourself. It's delivering to your full potential as a leader, employee and company; it's that basic and that profound.

Meeting expectations is a baseline I call "the relentless pursuit of average." I hope you have a problem with that, just as I do. Why even bother to be average? Average doesn't require much effort. You don't even break a sweat delivering average. Delivering average means you're following the rules, procedures and systems. You're doing what's expected. Nothing special. Nothing that stands out in a fiercely competitive global economy.

If meeting expectations is the relentless pursuit of average, what does "exceeding expectations" really mean? Does it mean delivering "above average?"

A major gap still exists between delivering experiences, results and outcomes that are above average and those worthy of being identified as world-class excellence.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to help enter the coveted realm of excellence:

Banish "average." It's present everywhere in your company. Find it. Tag it. Get rid of it. Start with your thinking and behavior because average at the leadership level sets the standard and enables average throughout the company. Look for average in your systems, communication and accountability. It's there. Find it.

Banish "expectations." Expectations are unique to each individual's perspective. One's expectation of excellence may be another's perception of average. Those demanding customers who drive you crazy are the ones that make you and your company stretch.

They make you work. They make you break a sweat. They make you better. Easy customers are great, but too many of them can make you lazy and average because meeting their expectations are simple. Ban "expectations" and replace it with "standards of excellence." And when those demanding customers get easy, find more demanding customers.

Banish "indifference." Indifference is "I don't care," and there are pockets of indifference in your company. Find them and get rid of them. Indifference kills excellence.

A good place to start your search for indifference is to revisit what your company stands for. What is your company passionate about? What does it fight every day to achieve? If there isn't much passion, purpose and fight in your company, there's indifference.

It's all about punching the clock and collecting a paycheck, not building something extraordinary. If you don't have absolute clarity on where your company is going that inspires and ignites the passion of everyone associated with it - indifference will spread. What are you building? Answer that question with something that exudes excellence.

Banish "B" and "C" players. They're average. They're content with average. A hard day's work is almost breaking a sweat. And you hired them. Build a company of "A" players and more "A" players will want to join you. If they don't want to be "A" players, there are plenty of "B" teams they can play for. It's time to rock your boat and wake everyone up.

Banish "we can't." If you believe you can't, you won't. If you believe you can, you will. And if you don't, you're still further ahead because you learned and tested your abilities. Self-doubt, fear of the unknown, or fear of failure can be your friend or your enemy.

Achieving excellence is a test of your resolve and ability to lead through adversity. You can't achieve excellence if you and your company are not mentally prepared to fight for it. There is no "easy button" to achieve excellence. As Yoda advised Luke Skywalker, "Do or do not. There is no try."

A new approach to business is being introduced called "No-Compromise Excellence." Merging "no compromise" with "excellence" instantly communicates a commitment and a promise to break through the vagueness of "exceed expectations" to deliver experiences, results and outcomes that are extraordinary by design and intent.

Neil Ducoff, founder of Strategies and author of the upcoming book "No-Compromise Leadership," developed the team-based pay concept more than 30 years ago and developed a company that trains and coaches to ensure businesses implement the program successfully. For more information, e-mail or visit