How to Surpass Expectations to Skyrocket Your Reputation

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Have you ever fallen short of your own or another person’s expectations on a task or project?  Or do you have staff whose work regularly disappoints you?  

As a business owner whose success relies on my ability and that of my team to serve our clients, I know that meeting and exceeding expectations can feel elusive at times.    

Not hitting the mark can alienate colleagues and customers as well as be a source of unnecessary stress and lost productivity.  It can erode professional reputations.  

The good news is you can start to change all that today by learning a few simple tricks. Read on to find out how you and your team can consistently surpass expectations and skyrocket your reputation!

Own It

As I think back over my career when my performance fell short of expectations, the situations fall into a Workloadfew different categories.  There were times I had taken on too much and didn’t leave enough time to complete the work.  Other times my focus was to get something off my desk as quickly as possible.  Still other times I mistakenly assumed that someone else who was involved would take care of parts of the work.   

In hindsight I can see that these things all have something in common: I didn’t take full mental and emotional ownership of the task.  I did it, but I didn’t engage fully in it.  

That got me thinking; what specifically do I do differently during the times of full engagement?  I came up with a clear set of actions.  

How to Take 100% Ownership  

Below are 7 simple steps that you can take before, during, and at the end of a project or task that will help you “wow!” your colleagues and customers.  

Before you begin: 

1. Know the expectations.   

Ask questions when information isn’t clear or if there are multiple ways to interpret the request. Question your assumptions about priorities, resources, and constraints such as time. Make sure you come to a mutual understanding before you move forward.  

An effortless way to make sure you have all the information needed to understand what is expected is to answer the 5 W’s and 1 H: who, what, where, when, why, and how.   

2. Understand the big picture goal.  

What’s going to be done with the information or end product you provide?  

The only way you can move beyond meeting expectations and begin exceeding them is if you understand what the person is ultimately after.    

Often people don’t know what else you can do for them or what else they should share or ask but you do.  By knowing where they’re trying to get to, you can offer more help and suggestions to get them there.    

As an example, if you ask a librarian for a particular book, he/she can only give you that book. However, if you share that you are trying to learn as much as you can about a topic, you will end up with an expert guide on your journey to gain knowledge, not merely a book in your hand.  

While you’re working:

1. Practice critical thinking. defines critical thinking as thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. Critical thinking involves making logical connections between ideas.    

To stretch your critical thinking skills, ask yourself probing questions while you work such as:  


  • Does what I came up with make sense?    
  • Are there unanswered questions? What don’t I know?  
  • Am I being objective, or do I have biases that are influencing me?  
  • What other factors should I consider?  

2. Reflect on assumptions

To get to the best answer, you must work with facts.    

Ask yourself regularly: Do I know this for a fact? If so, where did I get my information – from my memory, from someone else, or directly from the source?  

If it’s anything other than the source or an authority on the topic, you might not have the correct information.  Get the facts!  

3. Play devil’s advocate.  

Pretend you are someone with a different point of view.  What would that person say about what you’ve done?  Is there information that could be argued is incorrect, incomplete, or inadequate?  Where can you punch holes in your own work?  

Doing this will help dig deeper and, as a result, strengthen your product.    

As you wrap-up: 

1. Double-check.  

Review the expectations you gathered in #1 to make sure you’ve taken care of them all. When you think you’re done, ask yourself questions such as:  

  • Is my end product clear, professional, and free from errors?  
  • Will it enable the colleague or customer to reach their big picture goal?   
  • Will the information I’m giving be actionable for the person I’m doing it for?   

2. Add more value.

Now that you’re confident you’ve met expectations, spend some time thinking about how you can exceed them.  

  • Is there anything else you can do or offer to do that will save the person time or money or help move it along even more for them to check off their list?    
  • When I deliver it, will it make the person’s life easier or harder? If harder, what steps can I take to make their part easier? 
  • Given their big-picture goal, what else can I do to get them to that objective?  

Practice, Teach, Model

Exceeding expectations doesn’t happen by chance.  Practice these steps, teach them to your team, and model them. Just watch your team’s productivity and reputation soar!  

What else?  

What are some practices you and your team have in place that moves you from just getting it done to owning it?  

You can leave your answer in a comment below.  

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