What does over deliver mean to me?  Consider this exchange I recently heard: “No charge sir, we didn’t have what you wanted, so this one is on the house.”

I took Friday afternoon off to do some shopping and enjoy the warm? (45 F) weather before another snowstorm hit over the weekend. I don’t know about you, but I like a good Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks when I’m out and about, so that’s where I stopped between store visits.

Imagine my surprise when I heard those words from the young barista behind the counter after a request for a blonde roast grande coffee by the gentlemen ahead of me. Since there was none brewed, she first explained that he could wait or she could do a single serve. He didn’t want to be any trouble so he asked for whatever she already had in the pot. She happily complied, apologized that they didn’t have exactly what he wanted and gave him a free cup of coffee.

Now I call that a big over delivery and fantastic customer service.

How can you utilize that type of thinking with your clients? And before you quickly jump to that knee jerk reaction of “I don’t own a business, I don’t have clients”, think again. Whether you have direct clients or customers in the general public, or people that you directly deliver ‘something’ to inside of your organization, you HAVE clients.

I challenge my clients to become more aware of how they can over deliver. One very simple way is in your meetings. How many boring meetings do you sit through, with no clear desired outcome, no agenda, and everyone talking in circles with no clear defined actions to move the team forward?

Here are some tips to over deliver in your meetings:

1. Always allow enough time. Many people think they can have a quick update meeting and they don’t think through what really needs to be accomplished. They consistently underestimate the amount of time that the discussions will take. (I don’t think you can accomplish much in 30 minutes unless there is just two of you and you’re both clear on what needs to be accomplished). It’s much better to give people time back if you end early, than to keep people over, or have to set up an additional meeting.

2. Determine the desired outcome of the meeting. Do you need a decision, is it for communications, is it for brainstorming or planning? This will drive your overall agenda—which is the next agenda item!

3. Always have an agenda for every meeting. In fact, I challenge you to require an agenda for every meeting that you attend, whether you are in charge of the meeting or not. What’s the point of having a meeting, if you don’t know what you’re going to cover? How can you properly prepare? Without a proper agenda, you’ll be asking people to gather information offline and bring it back to a future meeting, rather than asking them to have it ready to communicate during the meeting at hand. Save yourself some time and speed up your impact! Develop an efficient and effective agenda.

4. Hold firm to the agenda and the time. Start on time and end on time. If you wait to get started by waiting on the few stragglers, you reinforce the late behavior. Have a starting time of 10 minutes after the hour if you have to, but then hold firm to it.

5. Determine measurements that you will track for a successful meeting, especially for meetings that are recurring. Things that you may measure at each meeting:

• Starting and ending on time
• Agenda sent before the meeting
• Attendance
• Participation and preparedness of attendees
• Engaging anyone participating by phone
• Capturing action items with who/what/when
• Developing communication plans for decisions made

Give each of these a score (e.g. like from 1-5) and track these from meeting to meeting to see if your meeting performance is trending up or down, and adjust accordingly to over deliver!