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Under-promise, over-deliver a fail safe method

In a single day, there is so much idle chit-chat and wasted words thrown about, then when something cuts through, suddenly one’s ears prick.

I was waiting for a takeaway coffee about two years ago, when I overheard two people chatting next to me. The thrust of the conversation was around the same problem so many of us face. The person had promised something that he could simply not fulfil.

How many times have we all done it? In the midst of a robust discussion, you think ‘well I know could do ‘z’, because ‘x’ and ‘y’ are almost complete, so it’s a safe promise.

And herein lies both the trap, and the escape.

Back in that coffee shop, the person dutifully lending her ear offered a piece of advice that was so simple, yet so breathtakingly poignant. “Well…” she said, “Next time you’ll know to under-promise, and over-deliver.”

Of course the idea is nothing new, for years we’ve been hearing that corporate double-speak about ‘managing expectations’ and what-not. Instead, this boiled-down phrase perfectly summed it up.

As a customer, a friend, a colleague, a boss – how thrilling is it when you receive above and beyond what you were expecting?

For the person in the hot-seat, it’s not at all about laziness or shirking responsibility. Quite the contrary. It’s about being honest with one’s self, and accepting that more times than not, things go wrong that are out of your control. Delayed shipments, broken equipment, critical staff on leave – there are so many variables.

What’s more, in today’s hyper-competitive business environment – not delivering to a customer or a client on time, and even a day or two late, can mean the end of the deal. And no one can afford that.

So here’s a little challenge for this week. If like me, the sky is the limit and you are a perennial optimist that nothing will go wrong, try my little trick.

Tell me what you think of ‘under-promising, and over-delivering’, send your thoughts to editorial@dynamicbusiness.com.au.