Exceeding expectations sounds self-explanatory. However, it is much easier explained than practiced. An expectation can only be exceeded when there is a clear understanding of the expected base performance. The base performance expectation is in no way extraordinary and to truly exceed expectations, actions must be intentional, planned and must surpass generally accepted levels of performance.

Having a mindset that exceeds expectations means that every task or situation is viewed as an opportunity to go above and beyond what is expected by your co-workers, bosses, clients and all other stakeholders.

To exceed expectations in the workplace, you need to know the base expectations. Here are some questions you can answer that will help determine some of the more common base expectations:

  • Do you know what you need to know?
  • Do you know your job?
  • Do you complete your daily tasks?
  • Do you know your chain of command?
  • Do you know your corporate peers?
  • Do you understand your goals?

If you can answer all of those questions, then you know your base expectations. The question now is how do you exceed them?

In order to effectively take on a mindset of exceeding expectations, follow these three simple steps to teach your employees this important concept and also to continue mastering it yourself.

  1. Know the base expectations of your role by understanding things you can do with almost no intervention from others. These are things you should not be continuously coached on or constantly reminded about to achieve.
  2. Seek opportunities to make yourself more competitive in your role. Perhaps it is learning new skills by attending a conference.
  3. Look for ways to exceed what people are expecting of you by asking yourself “What can I do that will go above and beyond the current expectation?”

Applying the Mindset

For example, as a trainer you delivered a course with valid references and accurate content fulfilling the base expectation. To exceed expectations in this case would mean you additionally provided relevant examples and made the material actionable such that if you followed up with the client in six to eight weeks, you would find they are applying the concepts and contributing their success to your subject reinforcement.

For your clients, think about:

  • If you were the client you would want/need….
  • How will the client experience exceeded expectations?
  • Is there a more clear way to put it together?
  • How can you exceed what is expected? This is important because sometimes a client task might be something you do regularly. For example, some existing clients may not want a detailed proposal whereas newer clients need more information, perhaps a tour and a face-to-face discussion to help them decide what services best fits their needs.

Improve your processes to better accomplish tasks:

  • Is there a better way to do this?
  • Did you look at every option/resource for this project?

For your team, consider:

  • If they have what they need from you? If not, how can you help them acquire the best tools and resources?
  • Refrain from saying you don’t know the answer to their questions until you are absolutely sure that it is not something you are able to answer or provide. If it cannot be provided, try locating a resource who can help or Google it for more thoughts.

Exceeding expectations is not just about taking your base expectations up a notch. In many situations it is easy to do better than expected, but to exceed you need to give that “wow” factor. “Wow” factors are those niche actions or attributes that keeps clients coming back to your organization. These are things that take your product or service over-the-top. As you continue to exceed expectations, your base will begin to include the extra work you have already been doing. This means you will have to be proactive to find new ways of going above and beyond in order to continue to proactively exceed your clients’ expectations.

It may be difficult to find those “wow” factors, but when they surface, they create happy and loyal customers. The bottom line is “wow” factors do not exceed expectations if the base is not met. Take a restaurant experience for example. A free dessert would typically be delightful. However, customers aren’t delighted by a free dessert if the tables were dirty or the meal was less than acceptable. If you meet your base requirements, the next logical and simple step is to further and exceed expectations in order to satisfy and retain your clients.