One of my favorite things to do in an interview is to ask candidates to describe a time that they exceeded the expectations of a client or co-worker. No matter what role they play in the labor and production services, their answer always gives great insight into how they view their roles in an organization, and if they are thoughtful, hospitable people focused on building great relationships.
Expectations in the meetings and events industry are high, and it isn’t enough for us to just do our jobs at a high level. We need to show that we share in our clients’ goals and give people memorable experiences of going above and beyond. The ways that we do this will differ from client to client, and moment to moment, but looking for those ways should never stop. Whether we are supporting AV labor, production crewing, or another role, exceeding expectations should become a habit, something that we all strive to pursue in our daily lives. The more we make it a foundational part of our work ethic, the more we will achieve. As the famous quote says:
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.”
The quote has been ascribed to everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher. We may not know who initially said it, but it points to a powerful truth. Our thoughts and our words are more than thoughts and words. They become who we really are. A person who constantly tries to exceed expectations, someone who looks outside of what their job description is to do something helpful, surprising, or caring, is a person with the type of character that I want around me, in my personal life and in my business.
So, how exactly do you make this a habit? We have to start with identifying and managing expectations.
If we don’t know what someone wants us to achieve, there is no way we can deliver more. Ask specific questions to determine what your client or co-workers need from you, and what they expect to receive. If you’ve been given a written list of expectations that’s a great place to start, but don’t leave it at that. Stated expectations and actual expectations aren’t always the same thing. We all have different ways of interpreting words, and no one wants to fall short because they didn’t double-check on the specifics.
Once you’re in the habit of identifying expectations, make sure it becomes second nature to manage them. None of us have superhuman powers, and trying to exceed expectations doesn’t mean that you take it all on, piling up tasks until you collapse. That’s not going to help you or anyone on your team. Practice good communication so that everyone around you knows what is expected and how to prioritize. You want to create a work environment that bolsters people’s ability to go above and beyond, not one that sets them up to fail.
The time to start exceeding expectations is once you know that you and everyone on your team are ready to get to work with realistic, well-communicated goals. Now is the time to make your clients’ or co-workers’ goals your own, and set out to complete every task with an eye on exceeding expectations. As you do so, you’ll soon discover that you are growing a reputation based on trust, hard work, and excellence.
Before long, you’ll see that your reputation isn’t confined to work events. Every time you seemingly go out of your way to help a co-worker, or anyone you encounter throughout your day, you are growing your exceeds-expectations-character. As you define and develop these skills, people will take notice. Your value will grow and you’ll become a desirable person to work with. This isn’t always easy – everyone who works in AV and production has stories of needing to pull off near miracles – but it’s an important way to make a difference. If it’s not something that you’ve focused on before, make today the first day you try, and don’t ever look back.