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Make it a Habit to Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

I’ll do it by Tuesday.  It’s Friday now and it’s still not done.  Grrr!!

One of the most upsetting things we experience, all too often it seems, is when someone promises to do something for us and then fails to meets the expectations they helped set.  This is true whether in our business or personal lives.  It business, it happens when someone either delivers below the standard you expected, is late, or both.  That’s what we’ll talk about here.

Disappointment is usually followed by trust eroded, especially if the person making the promises develops a track record for consistently failing to deliver as promised.  Nothing can derail a promising career, or getting someone to believe in you, than becoming the person who over-promises and under-delivers.

The problem you have to overcome is that promises made feel good in the moment.  Who doesn’t like talk of grand visions, problems solved, and all the money to be made, right?  Conversely, telling someone something they may not want to hear is much harder.

Think of adopting a cute little puppy.  The proverbial brochure focuses on how cute it is and all the fun times you’re going to have together. What fun!

But who would adopt that cute puppy if they told you it was also going to poop all over your house, chew everything in sight, cost a lot of money to take care of, and only after years of a bonded love, will almost certainly die before you do, breaking your heart?

Seasoned pet owners know what they are getting into when adopting a new animal.  So too do people realize that nothing is free, quality takes time, and it’s less costly to get it right the first time than to make amends later.  We’d much rather have someone tell us a goal and then beat it rather than raise our expectations and only offer excuses when they are missed.

Your take away from this is simple:  Get into the habit of under-promising and over-delivering.  If you know are confident you can have something to a client by next Tuesday, promise delivery for Friday instead.  That way if something goes wrong you have a cushion to still deliver to the expectation you set.  Trust me on this, things go wrong far more than we think.

What’s this look like in reality?  That project you thought you could have to your customer/client by next Friday actually took until Wednesday because your computer developed a virus and the writing took longer than you first expected. 

But you sent the completed work on Thursday, a day before you promised.  Rather than offer your sob stories and excuses for what went wrong, you instead delighted the person who wasn’t expecting delivery until Friday.

Under-promising and over-delivering.  It’s not glamorous sounding.  But it can do wonders for a career, relationships, and for turning your great ideas into reality.

– John