I received terrific responses to my “Setting Expectations” blog last month and want to address the “how to” of meeting expectations this month.

When plans don’t go as expected, a negative reaction is normal. The discrepancy between expectations and results can be major or minor, expensive or relatively insignificant. Regardless of the outcome’s severity, an agreement has been broken. Credibility is damaged and trust may have been breached.

In business as in life, the importance of credibility and reputation cannot be overstated. This is true of individuals as well as companies. The commitment to keep agreements is critical to success —with customers, employees, employers, colleagues and co-workers.

Business goals identify and clarify what is expected. If parties do not articulate and mutually agree on the means and measurements for how a goal is to be achieved, conflict may arise. A collaborative understanding is critical to the success of a program, a project or an interaction in order to avoid assumptions and misunderstandings, as well as to avoid negative consequences.

Realize that the only one who knows what you have in mind is you. What may be obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to others. Whether you are the initiator or the doer of a project, you cannot expect it to be achieved successfully unless both parties understand what specific outcome is desired, how it should be accomplished and why it is important. By failing to collaborate you may miss out on good ideas, resources and information.

Businesses focus on goals, outcomes and accountability and are measured and evaluated by how well they understand and deliver what is expected. The nature of a customer’s expectations — relative to quality, reliability, speed and cost — is determined by the type of business. Successful companies consistently meet and exceed customers’ expectations whether they are explicit or implicit.

I want to share a true story of a company that was threatened with the loss of a customer: “The True Value of a 400-Mile Drive.” By taking quick action, they not only met the customer’s expectations, they exceeded them.

You, too, can meet or exceed expectations successfully.  Here are a few tips.

  1. Understand and acknowledge exactly what is expected and what success will look like.
  2. Do not say “yes” if you really mean “no.”
  3. Be realistic about your ability and willingness to accomplish the task as articulated.
  4. Expectations include performance and relationship. Was the outcome achieved? Is the relationship enhanced? Remember, credibility, reputation and trust will either be earned or diminished.