I’ve recently been breaking my own rule and paying the price. The rule is…Always Double to Avoid Trouble and be successful. It works like this… If I think a task will take me 2 days…my promise is 4 days to deliver. If I think it will take me 2 weeks, I say it will be a month. This isn’t revolutionary, it’s one of those golden rules that business persons have followed forever. It all makes under-promising and over-delivering the magic to success. So, why is it that we all know to say it will take longer and still struggle to give ourselves more time than we need?
Here are some of the questions I have been asking myself this past week as I was late on items for a couple of highly understanding clients.
Do I forget that life happens? It’s critical to leave time in your schedule for the unexpected. It’s also important to build in rest. In the upper Midwest, excessive amounts of events are happening right now before the snow arrives. There is no shortage of activities in October and it’s easy to forget that after back to back social engagements, we will need to rest before tackling projects. Especially projects that need our most creative focus.
Do I want to be liked? Is it a confidence issue that I find myself over-promising? Just when we think we outgrow our need to be liked above being practical and authentic…it creeps back up on us. We want our clients/co-workers to be happy with us and impressed with our efficiency. Such a slippery slope when we can’t make our own deadline and end up disappointing everyone, especially ourselves.
Am I impatient for praise? Am I forgetting the beauty in delayed gratification? Shouldn’t I allow my client to be impressed with the actual work more than the speed of completion? A sure sign that we are over-promising is when your co-worker is surprised and overly impressed with the deadline you give. I have actually caught myself after a client’s delight say…”You know what….your reaction is reminding me that I’m probably being a bit optimistic….is it okay if I say one more week?”
Over-promising is one of those things that we will do and life’s unexpected moments will always compete with deadlines. The most important thing to remember is to be honest. Do not fill your client or co-worker with a laundry list of reasons why you couldn’t complete the task on time. When you can, always let them know well in advance that the timeline has changed so they can react. And, next time…remember, Double to Avoid Trouble.
Why do you over-promise? What other questions can you think of that I should be asking myself? We all learn from each other and I know you all have great insights. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
From my perspective in our business, one of the most important things we can do is to communicate with the client to fully understand what their true schedule needs are. In our line of work, every client wants their deliverable yesterday. But a lot of the time their deadlines are artificial, based on their wants and not their needs. With clients that are our trusted partners, we typically work with them to understand the big picture and tailor our schedule to match that. Where does our analysis fit into their business needs? Are they on a regulatory clock? Is there a threat to generation? If we have an open dialogue about that up front, it helps us to right size our schedule so that not everything is a crisis. On aggregate, when we do that, as an organization we end up not over-promising or missing deadlines. We then get the added benefit of honest communication with our clients, something that has a lasting impact even beyond the specific deliverable we are providing.