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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


One of the old saws of leadership is this: “Under promise, over deliver.”  

Sage advice, but I’d like to add a note of caution.  (Nope, I’m not gonna suggest that you over promise.)

I have seen some folks in leadership positions pervert that admonition into a practice of never promising anything.  They won’t stake out a position, make a claim, propose a direction, make a promise of any sort.  That is not leadership; it’s sissyship. 

So, what exactly should we promise?  
We can confidently promise integrity.  
We can confidently promise transparency.  
We can confidently promise full disclosure.  
We can confidently promise excellent effort.  
We can confidently promise genuine engagement and attention.  

Then, we decide how many widgets we will deliver, and when.  That is the place to under promise and over deliver.

The important lesson here is that the promise generates the expectation.  Promise nothing, and that’s what folks will expect of you. (And, they drift toward another provider). Promise too much, and folks will recognize it as bombast.  (And, they’ll probably drift toward another provider). 

Promise just under what you think you can deliver, then over deliver.

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