Dear Dan: I Over-Commit and Under-Deliver

Dear Dan,

I am the eternal optimist. I live to be of value to others and somehow always want to do more. But lately I’ve come up against some personal issues regarding my communication.

I seem to over-commit but under-deliver. When I get confronted I have a list of reasons to justify my inability to keep to what I said.

Then there is the added phenomenon that things change. Somehow I never know how long something will take.

I find it nearly impossible to communicate that things have changed. I’m late or I can’t do what I said.

I feel like a sensible and caring guy that won’t maliciously lie to people about my ability.

What can I do to be a better leader in these regards?



Dear Over-committer,

Congratulations for caring. It’s sad when good qualities produce negative results.

Possible root concerns:

  1. You’re a people-pleaser who can’t stand to make anyone unhappy.
  2. You’re a dreamer who doesn’t understand what it really takes to get things done.
  3. You let others run your life.
  4. You don’t know your own values and can’t set priorities.

Maybe there’s a bit of all the above in you.


Any intelligent person won’t give you an important job because you’re unreliable.


  1. Care so much that you refuse to let others down.
  2. Expect reciprocity. Say, “I’ll be glad to help, but I need a favor from you. I need to get XYZ done by Friday. Could you take care of that for me?”*
  3. Talk this over with a mentor who always delivers. Before taking on new projects, talk with your mentor.
  4. Learn what you are good at and stop doing things you suck at.
  5. Practice saying no with kindness. “I’m sorry. I can’t help this time. Maybe Mary can help.”

What suggestions do you have for Over-committed?

From, “Just Listen.”