It’s been awhile. Hello again. How’s the family? Yeah, the sun is starting to sneak out here in the northwest too. Yeah, I’ve been listening to a little Def Leopard, too.
Ok, enough small talk. Onto the story.
Rick and I wrestle with this recurring issue of performance and feedback (the impetus to kumquat, after all). Not all the work we do could be considered a “performance,” and not all praise and criticism should be interpreted as performance-related “feedback.” We still spin on this, though.
Driving home from a client meeting yesterday, I was playing back our discussions over and over again. My collaborator and I had talked after the client meeting afterward, and he asked the question, “Do you think they are happy with our work?”
In my mind, it tumbled to a few questions:
- Does the client (or my manager, or my co-worker) know what makes them happy in their work? Are they excitable when it comes to their work?
- Did I even consider asking what the difference between “contractual delivery” and “delighted client reference” would look like?
- Does this project have anything to do with my clients’ happiness quotient?
- Have I tried to link my work to making my client happier (or their life easier, or their career more successful)?
I don’t know that they are “happy” with our work. I know that they are satisfied (which is very milk-toast). I know that they are appreciative (and I am too when the barrista makes me coffee, or someone does a task I just want completed but may not want to perform). But I haven’t asked them what would make them ecstatic about the ‘refinements in project management practices’ work I’m doing for them.
I never asked.
Maybe I’m spinning. Maybe they are just shy, and are uncomfortable glowing over the work product in the group meetings. Maybe they are telling their families over dinner what a life-changing contribution our work is making in their organization.
I doubt it. And I’m now a bit embarrassed about it.
I’ve totally bungled the expectation management opportunity with this client to-date. I could have been cultivating an evangelist that would sing our praises from the rooftops.
At best, I would guess that the reference would be something like, “Yes, they did some work for us. Yes, they were competent. Yes, they delivered what they committed to doing.” Not a referral I’m going to point future customers to, and not a reference that tells a future client, “This guy can help you be a rockstar.”
Looks like I need to be scheduling a lunch conversation, and asking some long-overdue questions on expectations.
So you may be thinking, “That is a sad story, but not one I can relate to. I’m an employee, and don’t need client referrals or evangelists roaming the city streets ‘selling’ me.” But that would wrong-headed, now wouldn’t it?
We all need evangelists. Advocates. Referrals.
Every great professional opportunity began with a first impression, and the best came about because someone helped create excitement around getting me involved. We all need cheerleaders that can rally support, boost the energy, and get the blood pressure up in a good way.
We all want to do meaningful, important, exciting work. Not just you and the folks you chat with over lunch. I’m thinking of your boss’ boss, and that guy in Accounting that drives you nuts and is never satisfied. And that sales guy that is always non-plussed by your best effort.
To get more out of your work, you need to ask for help. Try setting the expectation for “delighted” or “excited” or “excellent” delivery at your next opportunity. It will certainly be harder, but will likely prove more valuable to both of you.