For those who reside where winter’s imprint includes bare trees and prolonged icebox conditions, spring’s arrival is typically met with a gleeful enthusiasm. No matter how well one has adapted to winter life, there’s a certain appreciation for the sun and warmth that are sure to follow in spring’s footsteps. No matter how many springs one has experienced, the thanks and appreciation for its arrival never seems to dampen.
Interesting, though, how this thanks and appreciation takes on a different meaning in a transactional context. Let’s use air travel as an example. You pay a fee in exchange for being transported to a far-off destination. When disembarking from the flight, how often will you offer appreciation to the airplane manufacturer for the aircraft they produced, the airline itself, the TSA or the FAA, and the fact they all got you to your destination safe and sound? Probably not too often. Chances are the first commercial airplane passengers did, but now the miracle of flight has been so relegated to the realm of normal, our appreciation for the miracle has transformed into something that is no longer appreciated, but simply expected. After all, we paid for it, which is very different from the payment one makes by enduring winter to appreciate spring. Expectations trump appreciation. If lofty expectations are not met each and every time, well, simply recall your own emotional experiences with travel delays and you get the picture.
So, how does all this relate to our organizations? Well, unlike the season’s turn, when no matter how many springs one has experienced there’s an enduring appreciation for it’s arrival, the more we go out of our way to meet the needs of our clients, customers, and employees, the harder it becomes to actually have them consistently appreciate what we do. In our ongoing quest to meet and exceed our client, customer, and employee expectations, to “WOW” them, we must be aware of the “new normal” we create, and how appreciation is something that is increasingly challenging to earn. In some ways we become victims of our own success, and appreciation is the casualty.
We need to be mindful of how high we’re setting the bar; set it too high, we may compromise our ability to deliver and disappointment will follow; set it too low, it may not be enough to meet the most minimal expectations. Moderation is the key; know what their minimum expectations are (no matter how lofty they might be), consistently meet them, and when the opportunity arises to exceed those expectations appears, take full advantage of it. Don’t anticipate or expect appreciation, rather find creative ways to earn it. And give yourself a break too, as people and organizations are imperfect; mistakes happen and problems arise. My goodness, sometimes spring’s arrival fails to immediately loosen winter’s grip. But ultimately, spring prevails, and appreciation follows. At the same time, let’s be mindful of the expectations we create and meet them. Because if we don’t, we may inadvertently create a winter, and chances are their appreciation for our spring-like efforts will be nil.