If you book a room at a 5-star hotel, you have certain expectations: a unique aesthetic, exceptional features, an understanding that your needs will be met through excellent service, personalized service, consistent service, during peak periods or down times. Regardless of industry, clients expect 5-star products and services. They want the unique and exceptional, delivered with the ultimate in service … and with the onus on their business partner to manage their expectations. But how is a business to do that?
I suggest a successful organization starts by setting their own expectations and being firm in their resolve that they and their team not only believe in them but also act on their belief in them.
For me, there are three basic requirements for setting and achieving 5-star expectations.
1: Start with your team
A successful team is a high-performing team. A high-performing team is one that is focused, engaged, shares certain values, possesses complimentary skill sets, and operates under leadership that rewards performance and “above the line” behaviors, and fosters open communication.
Developing a high-performing team takes continual effort, top down and bottom up.
The relationship of high-performing team members must be built on trust – trust that each team member has the other’s best interest and the good of the group in mind, that support will be provided when needed and vulnerability can be shared without judgment.
I’m a first to speak up, admit when I don’t understand something said in conversation or taking place in a meeting, and I expect others to be willing to raise their hand and take that journey to understanding with me. I’m also a first to welcome a good challenge and debate. Members of a high-performing team do not always have to agree. Actually, if they do always agree, you have the wrong team in place. High-performing teams should be comprised of members with varying backgrounds to come at problems from a variety of perspectives. What’s important is that team members be able to engage in constructive debate that results in alignment on the path forward.
2: Pick the right clients
It’s natural to want everyone to want your products. You’ve spent a great deal of time, effort, and money on their development and you’re proud of them. You market them, create websites full of their value and benefits, create content for SEO and attempt to create “converts” whose progress you measure and track through a pipeline that helps determine the potential for company revenue growth for the next one to five years. All good. All important. All vital.
But if you’re not also thinking about whether the prospects you’re attracting are the right prospects to partner with, you’re seriously missing the point. You need clients that share your values and are going to grow with your organization to the next level of success.
After joining the company I currently lead, I came to the realization that an earlier merger of two distinct, successful organizations had resulted in competing internal groups with fundamental disagreements about how to do business and who to do business with. In truth, at the time I joined, the organization had already evolved and was very different not only from the heritage companies that had given birth to it but also from other companies in the market. But the company needed clarity.
To get that clarity and set expectations going forward, we took a step back, realigned around a core purpose that exceeds “the what” (we build software and services) to “the why” (the inspiration, the feeling we want for our clients, team members, partners) and the core values and strategic anchors (“the how” we’re going to win in the marketplace).
The core purpose, core values, and strategic anchors now in place are the guardrails for our every action, behavior, and decision – including the answer to the question, “Is this the right client for us at this time?”.
3. Create industry-leading products
Once your team is rowing in the same direction, with clear purpose and expectations, and the right prospective partners have been identified, you can then do your best product work.
I believe the best product development results when an organization does not resort to “order taking.” And by that I mean taking the easy way out and letting a client or set of clients dictate the features and functionality of your future product iterations. It’s an industry leader’s job to innovate, to know the industry they serve, to research and partner with their clients, letting their own expert teams fully utilize their decades of knowledge and experience.
Expectations have a bad rep. Some say that happiness grows in inverse proportion to expectations. Others say if you expect nothing, you are never disappointed. But I tend to agree with inventor and engineer Charles Kettering who says, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.”
I say, aim for the five stars, set great expectations, and stick with them.