2019-08-12 Issue 109 – Fundamental Behavior 7 – Clarify expectations then respond quickly
This important Fundamental Behavior reminds us to take a proactive step towards enhancing the probability that our personal service will meet (and hopefully exceed) the expectation of our internal and external customer. Timing is critical in this case, as this action should occur at the beginning of the request and/or service agreement. This is when an expectation for satisfactory delivery is created. Doing this well depends on having the boldness to clarify, with the end results in mind. If ever there were a time for clear, unambiguous communication, this would qualify as a golden opportunity.
This Fundamental Behavior actually applies to the roles of being both sender and receiver, and we all assume these roles multiple times per day. During this important exchange, where delivery terms and expectations are being formed, ensure that the message is mutually understood by using words, actions, non-verbal cues, and symbols that express what is needed in a manner that both parties comprehend uniformly.
Failing to nail this down leaves room for an unwelcome visitor in this process…..assumption. If we leave a request vague, the other party has to speculate or guess what we actually wanted. This can result in colossal wastes of time and energy as a person works diligently, but in vain. They could expend valuable resources in pursuit of an end result that was not the true target. So, cast in that light, clarifying expectations is actually a very respectful and responsible thing to do for all concerned parties.
Here is a short, light-hearted story that highlights the importance of clearly stating our expectations. The story is about a famous golfer who, as a young boy, was receiving a teaching lesson from his instructor. The golfer was former PGA professional Ben Crenshaw, and his instructor was a soft-spoken, highly respected Texan named Harvey Penick. Word has it that one day the two of them were on a practice green. This is the area where golfers try to refine one of the most critical elements to the game of golf…..putting. The two had positioned themselves a long way from the hole, and Mr. Penick instructed his student to…”Get it close.” So, young Ben did exactly what he was asked to do. He proceeded to roll his putt right next to the cup, with it stopping just inches away. As the two walked across the green and towards the ball, Penick said, “That was pretty good, you almost put it in the hole.” To which Crenshaw replied… “You didn’t ask me to put it in the hole. You asked me to get it close!” SIDE NOTE: Ben Crenshaw was known as one of the greatest putters in the history of the game of professional golf. So, if anyone could have backed up such a bold statement, it was him!
This idea of clarifying expectations is more than simply a courteous thing to do. There are significant negative consequences incurred when miscommunications are allowed to run rampant in business. In a recent SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) article written by David Grossman, he cites an interesting statistic from a survey of 400 large companies (employing at least 100,000 employees). According to his research, the average amount of loss incurred per company was a staggering $62.4 million annually. Losses were experienced through poor performance and service results, re-work necessary to make things right, the opportunity costs involved, frustrations and strained work relationships, not to mention the plausible risk of damage to their company brand.
Also, let’s not lose sight of the second part in this Fundamental Behavior, namely “to respond quickly.” This idea prompts us to stay in touch with affected parties and to follow up with updates (both good and bad). Very few projects go exactly as planned. The considerate and responsible thing to do is to keep your stakeholder informed. Doing so shows that you are taking them and their request seriously and also affords them the opportunity to make their own adjustments as needed.
As we endeavor to render our best level of service, by “clarifying expectations, and then responding quickly,” we can do much better than “get it close!” When we integrate these actions into our work style, we can operate on a highly effective level, meeting and even exceeding expectations. In doing so, we will also benefit by enhancing our personal and company brand.
My best to you,
Director, Employee Development
YKK Corporation of America