Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

January 25, 2012

Avoiding Accidental Awfulness.

It’s easy to excuse away mistakes that you make. Especially when someone gets hurt. “It was an accident” you find yourself saying.  And magically, because you claim that it was an accident, everybody around you is supposed to be okay.

But they’re not.

They are still hurt.  Sometimes badly.

Which always leads to an important question.  Could you have done something about it?  Could you have taken steps to prevent the accident from happening?

The stark conclusion is that there are no accidents.  Just unprepared intentions.

You didn’t intend to hurt someone, but you weren’t planning to prevent them from being hurt.

There’s a big difference between the two.

It is easy to blame a bad economy or softening budgets for why top line growth is stagnant.  We’re careful to list a half-dozen mantras by which we run our businesses. Mantras that discuss customer service ideology, how sales people should conduct themselves, and the overall goals of the business.

But we don’t often plan to avoid creating accidents.  Accidents that end up hurting people and crippling our dreams.

And so, we are always in danger of committing that one final blow that knocks us out of contention for reaching our goals. We’re at the mercy of good motives and intentions without the plan to make sure human nature doesn’t derail us.

It’s a series of small things:

1. Not creating a culture of outrageous service.

Service isn’t a series of “tiers” on an organizational mindmap.  It’s an attitude of delivering value beyond what is being ask for.  It’s an understanding that if the customer makes a mistake on their own that you are responsible for that experience.  It raises the bar from “who is paying for what” to “how can we make sure you leave delighted”.

On it’s own, that”s not how your business works.  You’ll just deliver adequate support and then blame it on “unreasonable customers” when something blows up in your face.  It doesn’t matter who you blame it on, it’s your loss.  Create a culture of mind-blowing moments and reward your best team members based on that scale.

2. Not delivering on the right expectations consistently.

We all have expectations.  In business, a simple expectation is that if you pay for something you walk away from the exchange with a deliverable that is equal (or in greater value) to what you paid for it.  There are other expectations that we often take for granted — like honesty, fairness, respect,  and candor.  When you pressure business development to hit a number instead of delivering on expectations, you tend to generate cyclical frustration.

You’re setting yourself for future failure.  The quota can’t be the goal.  It’s the journey to the goal.  Again, this is best executed at a cultural level.  If you are looking for consistent delight from your clients then you have to shift the focus from money to motivation — from profit to potential.  The brass tacks of business are about you doing the right things long enough for people to trust you to take their money.

3. Not making it easy for customers to engage and disengage.

Make it easy to be fired.  You don’t need 47 page contracts; you need to deliver on results.  That’s the essence of business — delivering on your capabilities to the benefit of the client hiring you.  Newsflash — just because you hide the link to where people can close their account or end their trial doesn’t mean that they are just going to keep using your services.  It just makes them angrier at your incompetence.  Shame on you.

Focus on delivering outrageous service.  Guess what?  No one gets fired for being over-the-top amazing.  Stop. Stop. Stop.  You focusing on the ways you can get screwed over is the wrong mindset.  That’s what loser do.  They connive.  They do business with conniving people.  If you focus on being amazing you don’t have time to deal with those kind of people — and you don’t need 47 page contracts.  You need a handshake .  Start firming up your grip.

Accidents don’t need to happen.

Claiming it was an accident doesn’t clean up the mess. It doesn’t heal broken people. It doesn’t fix a damaging experience.

Any accident is your responsibility. What you “intend to do” and what you “actually do” might be two completely different things.

Stop pointing to a poster on the wall with your values on them.

Look inside yourself and take ownership for the impact you have on those around you.

Stop allowing accidents to happen.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.