The business principle “under promise and over deliver” is one that I learned to use to great advantage over the years. I really liked the concept from the first time I heard it. It made total sense to me: follow through on your commitments and exceed what you said you’d do.
For example, your boss asks when you can get a project finished by, you give a date and manage to turn it in 2 days early, perhaps with enough time for some feedback and to create another version.
This extra time you create can be very valuable as you can tweak things based on that feedback. It will give your boss the feeling that two helped shape the final outcome and increases their satisfaction with you and your work.
When I reflect back to what made me such a successful analyst at Wells Fargo, this is the thing that comes to mind first and foremost. My boss would often comment on how I had a knack for estimating how much time it would take to deliver something and would almost always meet or even exceed that deadline.
Some advice I got from a mentor early on in my career was to never make a promise unless it came of out of a genuine desire to follow through, not because of an obligation to do so. I came across this blog recently that outlines some tips on how to Under Promise and Over Deliver:
- Consider what you are trying to achieve by making a promise and whether or not it can be obtained by making a smaller, more manageable promise.
- Instead of promising to complete the entire project in an unreasonable amount of time, break the project up into sections.
- Promise to have portions of the project completed by a certain date. This allows you to manage expectations and keep up with the workload.
- Estimate how long you think it will take you to fulfill the promise and then double or triple that time.
- If you are not able to answer how long it will take you to complete a task, don’t give an answer. Tell the other person or group that you will get back to them.
- Sometimes we can’t help but break a promise. Be up-front and immediately offer an apology. It makes a difference and will go a long way towards repairing your relationship.
The lesson of under promising does more than just surprising people and making them happy. It gives you the space to do your absolute best and that will make you feel good too. Each time you make good on a promise you will feel that much more confident in your abilities.
Every promise fulfilled will help you to associate your name with positivity and trust. This is very, very valuable to your career. Making promises you can keep is instrumental to helping you build and maintain any relationship in life, but especially with your boss and people with influence over your career.