On Time is Now Early

I have written several times about the changing standards for performance in the business environment. I personally believe in setting reasonable expectations for my own, and other peoples performance, and then monitoring progress to goal completion. Having been on both sides of the equation, I have found it is better to reasonably promise and then try to over deliver.


It seems in tough economic times corporate business has changed but the way we view, and review it may have not. It has become more and more difficult to attain, let alone exceed objectives in today’s business climate. As staff numbers are reduced, “reasonable” goals and expectations seem to remain only in the eye of the beholder. Goals and objectives that you were once able to exceed given the “then” staff and budget, are now difficult to attain with the “now” staff and budget.


Both management and staff need to be aware of this new status quo. Incentives, rewards, recognition, ratings and reviews need to be prepared to reflect the fact that there are now fewer resources trying to deliver more objectives. Attaining today’s goals in this environment may in fact be more difficult than exceeding yesterday’s goals in that environment. There are always cycles in business. How we manage and treat our teams in tough times will have a significant affect on how they view and treat the business when times improve.

“Nice to Do” vs. “Have to Do”

Times have changed. This is a pretty trite statement in business, but it bears repeating. It used to be that your abilities were viewed based on the breadth of your knowledge and capabilities. To a certain extent this view still has credence, however more and more it is your depth of expertise and achievements in a specific field or function, not your breadth of capability that you will be judged on, whether you are in a position, or looking for one.


Hence the “nice to do” vs.“have to do” approach to business. Let me illustrate: If you are in sales you are normally responsible for achieving revenue objectives. It is what you are measured on. It is very quantitative. You have a goal to achieve. It is your quota.


You may also have the knowledge and capability to perform marketing functions such as the creation of sales programs and presentations.


Understand that sales staff are measured on their ability to achieve their quotas. If you can achieve your quota (a “have to do”) and also create useful marketing capabilities (“nice to dos”) then you have demonstrated incremental value above your required tasks.


If however you have NOT achieved your quota, but have also created useful marketing capabilities, you have still failed. Incremental “nice to do” work will not compensate for not achieving your goals in your “have to do” job. Remember, there is usually also a Marketing group who has the “have to do” job of creating marketing capabilities.


Business today is looking for the best experts in each discipline, whether it is Sales, Marketing, Operations, or anything else. While being adept and capable in multiple disciplines may demonstrate your ability for bigger roles, it will not compensate for failing to meet your objectives in your area of expertise. You must achieve your “have to do” goals before any of your “nice to do” work can be considered value added.

Deliver the Bad News

We have all seen it, and probably even done it at one time or another. A customer wants something. It is a logical request. They are a good customer. We really want to make them happy. The problem is that we are just not able to provide them what they want. It is now somebody’s responsibility to tell them.


It may be too expensive to develop the capability or to do. You may not have the resources available. The product or service may just not be technically capable of delivering what has been requested. It may be so far outside the contractual arrangements that you just can’t do it.


It is bad news.


Our first response is to try and soften the news. We naturally look for some way to get around the issue. We want to leave some feeling that there may be some way around the problem or a potential solution in the future. Don’t defer it, avoid it, or assign it to someone else.


This is only digging the hole deeper.


Business is about setting expectations and then meeting them. If you can not meet a customer’s request, you need to deliver that position and set the expectation that the request will not be met. It is business. People understand that they will not always be able to get everything they want. If positioned properly and honestly, it will be known that it is your desire and position to provide the best service and capabilities available, but that sometimes you are not able to fulfill every customer request.


In the future, if a solution to the customer’s request is found or developed, they will be pleased as their expectations (of no solution) will be exceeded. Whereas if you have positioned for a potential review or solution at sometime in the future to avoid delivering bad news, you have delayed meeting their expectations and created frustration. Customers understand a “yes” or a “no” answer, but a “maybe” will almost always frustrate them.