By Paul Reilly

Overdeliver. You likely completed this phrase without having to see it. It’s common to under promise. It happens often.

“I may be ten minutes late to the meeting.” Then you show up on time.

“There’s a two-week backorder on that item.” Then it shows up a week later.

“It’s a 45-minute wait for a table.” Fifteen minutes later your table is ready.

Expectation is the true benchmark for satisfaction, which is why under promising is so common. It’s easier to exceed a low expectation.

But have you ever considered the burden of low expectations?

First, “Under promising” is hard to sell. Imagine visiting a prospect and saying, “I know you have choices for this upcoming project, but I can assure you that we are the most average. We’re so mediocre that you will be pleasantly surprised with your experience.” You can’t sell that to a prospect.

Secondly, consider the damaging effects of low expectations on performance. In the 1960s, Robert Rosenthal and Kermit Fode conducted a series of experiments on rats. Participants trained rats to run through a maze. The rat trainers were told whether they were training smart rats or dumb rats. The researchers told the rat trainers that they ran genetic testing to determine which rats were smart and which were dumb.

As expected, the smart rats performed better on the maze, and the dumb rats performed poorly. But not for the reasons you may suspect. The researchers were not observing the rats. Instead, they were observing the rat trainers. There was no real difference between the rats. The only difference was the behavior of the rat trainers.

The smart-rat trainers expected better performance from their rats, which influenced their behavior toward the rats. The dumb-rat trainers expected poor performance, which negatively influenced their behavior. The expectation drove behavior. This study has been duplicated on humans with similar results. This effect is known as the Rosenthal Effect.

People rise or fall to the expectations placed on them. If you expect more, you tend to get more. If you expect less, that’s what you get! If you are constantly setting a low bar, then you’ll eventually reach that expectation. Never burden anyone, especially yourself, with low expectations.

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