Friday, June 06, 2008

Measuring Excellence is Relative

[Fair warning to Vlad: Showing my age a bit here.]

In my college days (back when the crust of the earth was still warm), some friends and I lived in a dorm named Dooley. We decided to see how many bars we could visit in a year. So it was called the "Dooley Tavern Tour."

When you undertake such a pointless adventure, you need some criteria to measure one establishment against another. My measure of excellence: Patsy Cline on the jukebox.

I really learned the definition of "dive bar" on that tour.

Flash forward. 2008. 4-star priceline hotel in Washington, DC. $49/night. Big plasma TV, couch, work area with lots of electrical outlets.

That's all fine. The real measure of excellence: Amazingly good nachos served at 11:30 PM in the bar.

When you travel a lot, strange things become your measure of success.

When I travel ten hours, I want a beer before bedtime. I'm amazed at how many hotel bars close at 10 or 11 PM -- even if they're full. And when the plane lands at 10:30 PM . . . tough.

Another nicety is munchies. Airline "food" now consists of either a cobb salad for $9 or a "snack pack" of M&Ms and canned chicken salad for $6. So I'm ready for anything resembling real food.

And what do I find at 11:30 PM? Really great nachos!

I have to say: really great nachos are cheap and plentiful in old Sacramento. But on the road in L.A., New York, Cleveland, New Orleans . . . Not so much. And in Dallas of all places: Non-existent!

When I'm on vacation, travelling for pleasure, nachos and a beer late at night are not part of the equation. Extra towels. Hot water. Great view. Those are pleasure travel measures of success.

Lesson: The measure of quality is relevant to the situation.

(Here it comes.)

The same is true with your clients.

When everything's going right, there's one measure of success. But when stuff goes wrong, a very different measure of success takes over. And, of course, it is different for each client.

When everything's going the way it should, one client loves you because of the even, predictable payments. Another one loves you because of the quick response.

And when stuff goes wrong?

One client is irritated with slow response time. Another client wants better communication.

So, the work, and the attitude, and the measure of success that put you in good stead with your client is NOT directly related to the measure of success when things go bad. It is great to have that good will "in the bank," but you need to be prepared for a different measure of success when things go south.

It's like a lot of other things in life. The talents and skills that got you here are not the same as what you need to excell now that you are here.

Here's a great want to look at it: Something's going to go wrong. That's life. How will you and your team respond? You can choose NOW how you'll respond then.

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