Under-promise and over-deliver? What is that?

UP_ODI used to sell for a couple of retail investment establishments, and I was always told to “under-promise and over-deliver”. That sounded logical at the time, but in hindsight, seems a little self-defeating. Firstly, I couldn’t promise whatever the company didn’t promise, and I certainly wasn’t in any position to deliver anything, since the investment returns were absolutely outside my spheres of control and influence! What I COULD promise was whatever I could deliver at my end, meaning great service. Secondly, applying the phrase “under-promise and over-deliver” to the rest of life as we live it, I have come to agree with Alan Weiss that it tends to force-shape our thinking towards mediocrity. “Under-promising” puts us in a very comfortable place, since we know that, as long as we do what we usually do, the client would be deeply appreciative of the fact that we have “over-delivered”! I am now of the thinking that this simply will not do, as our clients, and the people around us, surely deserve more than that! Now, I am not going the other way and asserting that we should “over-promise and under-deliver”, far from it! So what am I saying?

Do all of us desire to be growing as individuals throughout our lives? Well, that means that, if we are in a certain line of work or business, we ought to become better and better at what we do as the years go by, ja? Similarly, we ought to be delivering greater and greater value as time goes on. If we find that our line of work or business happens to be journeying to the West (as in “sunset”), then do you think we ought to be flexible enough to switch to something that people still value? I dare say that most people would agree!

How, then, do we do that without “over-promising”? One of the things we need to have is humility. Now, humility is not self-deprecation. It is simply looking at ourselves as we ARE, not who we fantasize we are. It is looking realistically at our strengths, weaknesses, limitations and most importantly, our growing capacities and expanding potential! One of the best ways of so doing is to work TOGETHER with our clients, being open and transparent with them, and asking them to come on board with us and explore the future together. It is like saying “Come further in, go higher up!” It is like opening doors to new vistas, new worlds and new possibilities even as we continue to take cognizance of our own weaknesses and limitations, knowing that as we become stronger and wiser, our new strengths and insights will compensate for them.

One example of this could be entering in to a client’s project and exploring together what possibilities there could be that would make this the best-ever project for the client. Whether it is internal strengthening, breaking new ground overseas, or simply launching another product line, it is to mark new heights of value for all the client’s stakeholders.
So, next time you hear “under-promise and over-deliver”, pause and think for a while. Is that what you want, or would you rather throw yourself in to jointly deliver the greatest value for your client? Have a great week ahead!
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