Have you ever had lousy service from someone, and the problem got even bigger because they refused to fix their mess-up? I recently had a situation where a builder didn’t address some relatively small problems early in a building project, and those mistakes then snowballed into much larger, more serious issues.
I see this all the time in businesses and organisations. They find themselves in the middle of major headaches - even full-scale crises that spill over into the public arena - simply because they failed to address a relatively small problem early on.
Problems have a way of growing. If we don’t acknowledge them and do something about them, they're going to fester and swell, and turn into much more nasty issues that we then have no choice but to address.
Most crises don’t simply land on organisations overnight. They grow up from smaller problems that were left to grow unchecked. Part of being successful in today’s reputation-driven economy is to have a “zap it” attitude to issues and problems, whether on a personal level or within your business or organisation. That means practising constant “weeding” of your reputation garden; if there’s a hint of an issue that could grow into a major headache, zap it fast and zap it early. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Meet unmet expectations. Most issues arise because at some point, someone’s expectation wasn’t met. They might be a customer, supplier or employee. They might be your manager, a team member or somebody else you interact with. Often we have blinkers on and aren’t even aware of those unmet expectations.
People who are stand-outs in business have finely- tuned antennae that can pick up on situations where expectations haven’t been met. They then make it a priority to address those expectations, rather than burying their head in the sand and leaving a situation to fester. Un-zapped problems have a way of haunting you in the end, so meet unmet expectation early.
2. You can’t please everyone, but you can please most people. I’m not suggesting that in meeting expectations you have to become a “people pleaser” who always gives everyone what they want. That’s a recipe for madness, right there! You're not going to be able to satisfy some people, and sometimes their unmet expectation will be outside your control. However, it’s important to make the approach to that person and find out what their unmet need or expectation is. Let them explain the situation, and then you can look at options. If you can’t immediately help them, you might be able to refer them to somebody who can, or at the very least you can explain why you're not able to address the expectation. They mightn’t like the answer, but they're going to go away a lot more content with what you've put to them, because at least you’ve taken the trouble to communicate.
3. Make conversation your first resort. When tensions start to run high, having an email battle is never going to produce any winners. You need to talk to the person – look at the whites of their eyes, rather than their words on the screen. Stand-out people bring the benefit of their positive body language to a conversation, to help the other person understand that their expectations are being acknowledged. So often, we make email or other forms of indirect conversation our first resort. In sensitive situations, put conversation first.
If you can become that person in your business who identifies looming issues and suggests solutions early, think of the time, money and frustration you’re going to save. Your “zap it” attitude will help build your reputation as a stand-out in your organisation.
Zappers of the world, unite! Your reputation depends on it.