We underestimate the importance of expectations. Whether you’re buying a car, a pair of sunglasses, or a cup of coffee you’re not so much buying a product, but investing in an expectation.
You don’t buy a Toyota because you believe it’s the fastest car in production, you buy it because you expect that it will still be running 15 years from now. You expect your morning coffee from Starbucks to be fresh, hot, and made to order. That’s why you go there. Think how you would feel if your Toyota broke down after 3 years or if your coffee was lukewarm?
The best companies understand the link between expectations and long term success and it’s why they obsess over it. Some refer to it as ‘the experience’ or how the product makes you ‘feel’, but they’re all talking about the same thing: expectations. More importantly, once you can establish a set of expectations you’ll know how to exceed them.
One company that’s better known than most for this is Disney (so much so they have a Disney Institute consulting arm that shares their lessons with other companies). For Disney, it’s about creating ‘magical moments’ and their aim is to create them everywhere.
In an oft cited example, all Disney employees are taught on their first day how to respond when they spot a child who’s just dropped their ice cream on the floor. They stop whatever they’re doing; replace it with a bowl of the same ice cream with a cone on top as well as two cookies that look like Mickey Mouse ears. Disaster averted and the story will be retold by the parents for years to come.
When it comes to our careers, it’s no different. When we join a project, or company, or new team there’s an expectation that we’ll be able to meet a missing need. The very minimum we can do is to meet this need, after all that’s what people expect. To truly set yourself apart, understand that need well enough to exceed it. Then you’ll create your own magical moment.