YKK Stories

2018-02-12 Issue 34 Fundamental Behavior 7 Clarify Expectations, Then Respond Quickly

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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I think this Fundamental Behavior is the key to a great career and a bright future, at least from a tactical perspective. Can you imagine how much less stress and conflict we would have if we all did these two actions all the time? It’s simple, right? Everyone clearly explains what is needed and everyone fulfills those requirements with an appropriate level of urgency. Nevertheless, we often fail to clarify expectations and a lot of us fail to respond quickly (not you, of course, I am talking about those other people).

One time, I had a big presentation to an important audience and I really wanted to impress them. I think pictures in presentations are better than words or graphs for telling stories to an audience, so I decided that I would make a powerful presentation with only a few charts, fewer words, and a lot of pictures. I was confident in my approach, but did not know the audience, so I asked someone who knew them. He told me, “You can’t have too many pictures.” Great! Having been validated, I marched forward with my plan. I thought the presentation was fabulous, but, sadly, the audience did not. They thought it lacked necessary data to back up my thesis. When I followed up with my ‘advisor,’ he said, “Well, I told you having too many pictures was a bad idea.” Swallowing my frustration, I asked whether I should include more charts and data in my next presentation to that audience. He smiled and confidently pronounced, “Well, you know, you can’t have too many graphs.”

Was that his fault, or was it mine? I think it was both. He should have been clear as to what was expected. But I should have judged whether it was necessary to continue to follow up until I better understood those expectations.

Of course, understanding the expectation is only half the exercise, the other is to respond quickly. Has anyone ever complained that you delivered on something too soon? There is no better way to impress your customer or boss than to respond quickly. They will instantly feel that you thought their need was important, and they will respect and like you for it. Even if you cannot complete the task quickly, it is (almost) just as powerful to update your customer/boss on your progress. I think we all have had calls like these:

Joe’s Car Shop, Time: 4:55 pm – “Oh, yeah, I am glad you called, Mr. Reed. It does not look like we could get to your car today, but we will try to get to it tomorrow!”

Bob’s Repairs, Time: 1:00 pm – “Hello, Mr. Reed? This is Bob at the shop. I am sorry, but we will not have your car done today, but we will have it done by noon tomorrow. I just thought you would want to know so you can make plans for a ride home. I will check in again tomorrow to give you a progress report. Sorry for the delay, but we are on it!”

Who got your business the next time, Joe or Bob?

Jim Reed
YKK Corporation of America