It is one of the conversations I hear most often as a Mentor; a client is feeling down, their confidence is at an all-time-low and they’ve just admitted that today, someone told them they didn’t like what they do. “They said my style wasn’t right for them”, “She said my product wasn’t as good as their other choice”, “He’s told me he’s not renewing our contract”, all news that everyone in business has heard at one point, and is likely to hear again. The painful truth is, you are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that is great news. If you want to please everyone, you’ll have to be bland, middle of the road, non-controversial, happy to stay put and resist change, oh and more than anything else, you’ll need to be average.
I can say with confidence, that nobody ever wanted to run an average business, lead an average group, give an average service or teach an average class. We have all encountered businesses who have attempted to be all things to all people, but without exception, they fail. Take any brand, however well known, respected or credible, and you will find a customer who has had a bad experience with them. Any brand. One of the greatest challenges facing our Public Services is that they are expected to be exactly what we all need, at every stage of our lives, whatever our circumstances. I must say, as someone who would not be here without our NHS, I am grateful that this remarkable group of people somehow manage to be anything but average, on the “shop floor” and it is thanks to these remarkable, way-above-average people that this service delivers miracles every day.
Accepting that you’re not going to deliver, or accept, average in your life, requires you to be clear about where you draw some lines:
- Say no to potential business
We’ve all been in that place where work is at a low point and we’ve considered working with someone when our gut is telling us to walk away. Perhaps the cash was just too tempting, or the introductions promised are getting you into a new market; as you’re saying yes, you know you should be saying no and sure enough, within weeks, you encounter problems. Saying “No. This is not for me” is one of the most difficult and fantastic things you will ever do; overcoming the desire to make the wrong decision for a short-term gain, and having the confidence that something better will come is a moment you will look back on with pride and pleasure in the future.
- Decide what “above average” really means to you
If you are going to set yourself up to succeed here, you need to set some guides in place for measuring your delivery as being “above average”. A great place to start this is to ask previous and existing clients what it is about your service or products that keeps them coming back to you. Ask them what makes you unique and what they most value in what you do for their business. These are your pointers for excellence and setting these as standards you will achieve for every customer will allow you to be realistic about the consistence and credibility of your services.
- Manage expectations with authenticity
It is almost certain that it is the very things that some don’t “get” or like about you that will appeal most to others. We have all discovered with experience that our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses when we are at our most vulnerable and with this in mind, being authentic about who you are, how you work and what it is that makes you different, is key to attracting the right clients to your business (and the same applies to attracting friends and partners too). This means being yourself at all times, even when it is tempting to conform, or play-down your individuality, even if you’re finding number one (above) hard to master. I remember the greatest compliment I received the first time I met someone who’d only conversed with me on line; “You’re exactly who I thought you’d be” he told me “You come over on Twitter and your blog just as you do on stage and over coffee.” Being yourself, setting an expectation in advance, helps attract the right people and also helps avoid uncomfortable situations with the wrong ones.
- Refuse to accept average
I always have respect for people who “walk their talk”, especially when I know it requires effort. Accepting average service is a choice; if you’re regularly getting less than you believe you’ve paid for from a company or giving more than you get in a relationship or friendship, it is possibly because you’re prepared to accept average. Perhaps you believe average is all you deserve. When you’re serious about accepting above average, it does something to your level of self-esteem that is liberating and powerful. When you decide that only above average is good enough, you’ll expect it, appreciate it, acknowledge it and enjoy it more than you do on an “average” day. You will also enjoy the challenge of delivering that for others; there is no better motivation to deliver outstanding service than to experience it yourself.
The next time someone tells you they’re less than thrilled with your service or product, ask them what they’d expected. Ask them what would have made it right for them and thank them for their feedback and then consider this question: Was their rejection because I’m not good enough or could it be that I would have suited them better if I had been more average?
The image at the top of this post was created by my wonderful friend and teacher, Amanda Rose. You can see her fabulous art in Myddfai Community Centre, attend one of her art classes (with me) every Wednesday afternoon, or commission her to illustrate your Poetry or writing. She’s the inspiration behind this blog; one of the most authentic, talented and above-average people I know who’s a real inspiration to me. And she makes me smile.