Put the Cherry on Top!

Note: This post  can be considered an extension of my last post on “resourcefulness”.


I see a lot of people who believe that doing what is asked of them is “enough”. I would suggest that people who consistently go beyond and “finish strong” will tend to go farther in their careers (and lives).


So what do I mean by this? There are two threads to this theme. The first is don’t be short sighted in holding rigidly to pre-defined expectations (scope, responsibilities etc.). The second is at the end of an effort, project or initiative finish strong. Don’t miss doing the last touch or flourish that can “put the cherry on top” for a colleague, boss or client.


I’ll give an example of each.


Going Beyond…

You have a boss who is very busy and asks you and a colleague to look at some financial data on your business unit and frame some key talking points for her next executive committee meeting. She will consider both of your inputs in advance of the meeting. It’s Friday morning and she needs it by Monday morning first thing. This is outside your normal responsibilities, but the team is short handed and she needs help.


You understand this is an important assignment and an opportunity to make a positive impression. You are early in your career and looking to get noticed. So you spend Friday afternoon and a chunk of your Saturday morning looking at the numbers and developing a 2-3 slide PowerPoint deck with recommendations that you think are well thought out. It includes some summary numbers and your thoughts. You email it to you boss and in passing on Monday mention the time you spent on it to subtly remind her that this was beyond your normal scope and you invested valuable personal time on it.


Your colleague also understands the potential in this assignment. He spends his entire weekend working on it and builds a complete presentation that includes data tables highlighted to illustrate the points in question. He also goes beyond the numbers as presented and lays out some longer term implications for your boss. In addition, they don’t just email it. They present a color, bound copy to your boss with talking points for each slide. They also make no reference to the time it took.


Who makes the impression here? I made a point here for you to have put in some reasonable effort, but not have it resonate with the boss. The point is how much effort is required and are you REALLY committing to going beyond expectations?



On a recent consulting project one of my teams conducted, the client identified a few changes and additional information they would like added after the “final” presentation had been completed. The team was a little frustrated as the project was supposed to be complete at the end of the meeting and finals were looming.


They understood the importance of finishing however and invested another 5 – 10  hours in fleshing out a few deliverables more fully as a leave behind for the client.


In addition, the client sent us an email during finals week with a request to attend a staff meeting later the same day to answer any project related questions that might come up as they worked to take a decision. Two of us changed our schedules to make it and were active participants.


The client was very happy with both the additional work product and the last minute meeting support and attendance. The tone of the close-out emails was VERY positive.


We could have easily said no and I think the client would have been OK. The project had gone well and the work was well received, but…


You want to finish strong and leave a positive impression as the last one. Everything can go great on an initiative and still be perceived as “good, but…” if you don’t ensure positive feelings all around.  Leave them wanting more for the right reason.


Put the cherry on top and don’t leave them with sour grapes!


3 Responses to Put the Cherry on Top!

  1. Mary says:

    To be very literal, I actually like citrus flavors, including sour Skittles and sour grapes.

    What if your .5 year old child gets sick and during this weekend, your in-laws are coming to visit?

    Or what do you do if your boss’s meeting gets canceled?

  2. In terms of “things come up”, everyone has to make choices and family ought to be a higher priority (in my opinion). So do the best you can. The examples I pick are always and effort at laying out a conceptual case, much like case analysis in business school. Clearly life is more complicated. Take the point and do your best.

  3. Phil,

    I read a handful of your posts and it looks very good so far. Please continue to post as I’ve been impressed with your overall ability since coming to Carlson and would like to learn more from you.

    Take care,


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