Meeting standards is essential, meeting expectations is exhausting. It’s something which Michelle Hoskin strongly believes is one of the key success factors for a financial planning business. In this article she gives practical insight into why and how you can integrate a standards-based approach into your business in your drive towards excellence.
For someone who talks a great deal about standards, I often assume that it’s obvious that it is understood that there are some fundamental differences between standards and expectations. Clearly not!
I did have to laugh to myself as I looked up the official dictionary definitions of the two. Simply googling the words confirmed everything that I have believed for years but it’s something which so many overlook.
- Standard – a level of quality or attainment. ‘their restaurant offers a high standard of service’
- Expectation – a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. ‘reality had not lived up to expectations’
Time to think
We all benefit from taking time away from the day job. Making space and freedom to think and not just do allows us to gain a real and valuable strategic view over what is really going on in our teams and businesses. Somehow the freedom allows us to see with such clarity the real issues which are the triggers for the complexities and challenges facing our profession and our marketplace.
I’ll be honest: it can often take me a while to capture in a succinct way what I see, how I feel and my proposed solution to problems, but I get there in the end– all good things come to those who wait.
Identifying the differences
Before I dive in – let me ask you two questions.
- When I say the word ‘standard’, what do you think and how do you feel?
- Now, when I say the word ‘expectation’, what do you think and how do you feel?
To me these two words – despite being so similar in their initial positioning – mean totally different things. And when they are confused it causes an unnecessary amount of tension, stress and upset which is quite frankly a complete waste of everyone’s time.
Just have a think about how often you find yourself saying things like, ‘I expected it to be done this way’, or ‘I would expect them to know how to do that’, or ‘Well, I would/ wouldn’t have done it like that’, or the classic ‘Isn’t it obvious? It’s not rocket science!’
If you are nodding right now – please read on.
From experience I can tell you that one of the most common reasons why people leave an organisation is because they feel that they cannot meet the expectations of the business, of the business owners, or of the financial planners. It can feel like a constant kick in the teeth that they are just not quite good enough.
It is human nature to want to please, to deliver and to make someone happy by meeting the expectations of another person. BUT with the continual moving goalposts of one person’s expectations over another – trying to second guess what people expect is not only exhausting, it’s quite frankly impossible.
Expectations are personal to the person that has them, and are then shared with others.
Yet there is often little to no guidance given about how to meet these expectations in the first place; because, let’s face it… our personal expectations can change from one minute to the next depending on how we feel in any given moment.
So, let’s imagine a business that has replaced expectations with standards. A business that’s been robust in its design and built on purpose. It has a fantastic team. They are supported by well-documented, tested, effective and super-efficient processes and procedures. Each one of these allows them the freedom to share their creativity, their tactical and strategic thinking fully because the nuts and bolts of their role can be done without even thinking about it.
Businesses designed like this will thrive.
Sadly, we continue to see so many firms making it really difficult for themselves. They put the barriers of expectations up so high that the only outcome is the continued disappointment of those who are trying so desperately to meet them. But nobody wins.
When standards replace expectation- the magic truly starts to happen
I know standards, structures, processes and procedures are not the most glamorous of subjects, nor do they bounce many of you out of bed in a morning, but the tide is changing. The need for them is becoming ever more apparent as the profession is finally waking up to the fact that high standards, well-thought-out structures, and robust processes and procedures are the bedrock of everything they are trying to achieve.
We get many enquiries every week from new firms that understand the importance of standards over expectations. They literally say, ‘I’m starting out and setting up my own firm’, or ‘I’ve/we’ve just bought out the previous business owners’, or ‘I want to set up my own practice… and I want to set the standards so I do this right from the beginning!’
My first questions to these aspiring businesses are always:
1)What are your personal standards?
2)What standard of business you want to build?
3)What standard of skills, abilities, attributes and behaviours do you want to establish in your team?
4)What standard of client service do you wish to deliver?
5)What standard of client do you want to work with?
At NO POINT do I ask about expectations. Why? Because his or her expectations are secondary to the standards they want to set.
By setting the standards, you have a business which is repeatable, sustainable, scalable and of course, if it’s in your plan, it’s sellable too.
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