Dear Dan: I Over-Commit and Under-Deliver
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?
Congratulations for caring. It’s sad when good qualities produce negative results.
Possible root concerns:
- You’re a people-pleaser who can’t stand to make anyone unhappy.
- You’re a dreamer who doesn’t understand what it really takes to get things done.
- You let others run your life.
- 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.
- Care so much that you refuse to let others down.
- 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?”*
- Talk this over with a mentor who always delivers. Before taking on new projects, talk with your mentor.
- Learn what you are good at and stop doing things you suck at.
- 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.”
Take control of what you do, build some margin in time, effort and support then seek to under commit and over deliver. Set up a communications channel as suggested above to get support or update the team if something comes up to upset the path to the end. Eventually you will have a track record of good delivery and be able to better manage efforts with out being taken advantage of.
“Care so much that you refuse to let others down.” I love that one.
Understand you cannot please everyone and if you think you can you will please no one.
Learn how to say no (graciously, as Dan said).
Caring too much–any strength taken to the extreme can become a weaknesses.
It sounds like you are a “rescuer.” You are quick to take on other people’s tasks and commit to doing task you don’t own.
A few suggestions:
1. Set boundaries–define what tasks you own and what you don’t own.
2. Make your key tasks and goals visible. Write them down on a flip chart or whiteboard so they are a constant reminder of what you need to get done.
3. Practice saying “no.” I’d like to help you but see that list over there, I need to get all that done! 4. Get help in figuring out why you are a “rescuer—people-pleaser.”
Get in the habit of building in some slack/overestimating the time it will take you to complete a project. That way, your ambition and enthusiasm don’t get in the way of reality. Most of the possible outcomes from this practice are positive. You either:
1. Actually have the time you need to do what you promised
2. Turn your assignment in early
3. Have extra time to add details that make your projects stand out
Of course, if you’re taking way too long to complete tasks, that’s not ideal either. Set aside some time to reflect: What aspects took longer than expected and why? How can I be more efficient? Are there aspects that I can delegate?
For Over Committee in case of Point #2 He does not know what it takes to get things done?
I would say, probably he knows what it takes but the things seems to unorganised, unaligned and scattered.
1 He should make a list of the things to do;
2 He should delegate things to the minutest level and monitor without intervention but can guide;
3 must set a timeline for others as well as himself;
Last but not the list
Being a leader if he wants to get there having plan B ready, keeps you in the game.
Practice saying NO with kindness… GREAT! I highlighted this… People might know for real that you love them but want you to prove it to them. I’m kinda thinking, Does this phrase outline with ‘Don’t please everyone and displease yourself..? Thanks Dan!
A thought not mentioned yet – I have the ability to visualize the completed assignment and all the steps needed to get there very quickly. The actual execution and the time it takes seems like the trivial part of it sometimes, since there are many who can’t visualize the end and need direction through all the steps. I wonder if Over-Committed has this ability also. It is very frustrating to shepherd people through all the steps when you visualize the completed project so clearly, and it is tempting to just do it oneself. When you have this very clear vision of the end product, it is hard to delegate, give up control, and find oneself with an end product that differs quite a bit from the end you had in mind from the very start.
Gathering data on how long things actually take is helpful, writing them down on a cheat-sheet. Recognize that others may not value speed, but accuracy, including accuracy of delivery time. Execution does matter, and there is value in delegating and mentoring. Give up on the thought of an ideal end product that matches what you had in your head. It might help to, once this vision of the completed project manifests, to take a few minutes to intentionally back off from it, and write down a few criteria for how this end product should be judged. For a marketing piece these might be: is the look consistent with our brand guidelines? Does the text inform and persuade why our product is better? Is it grammatically correct? You may have to let the rest go. There are many ways to get something done, and the way you envisioned isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ way.
One thing that helps me is to give realistic deadlines. We want to tell people that we will have it for them this afternoon, but realistically by the time you work on your other projects and travel the next day it is going to be two days before you can return what they need. People get comfortable with two days if you deliver. They are not happy if you say you will get it to them this afternoon and it really isn’t getting done for two days.
When my wife asks what time I think I will be home, if I think it will be 5:00 I say 6:00. When I roll in at 5:30 I am 30 minutes late, but in her mind “you got home early”. It is all about perception.
I read an article a long time ago with a phrase I’ll never forget: “Every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.” For example, if you say, “Yes, I can stay late to finish that report for you,” you are also saying, “No, I won’t be having dinner with my family tonight.” For me, it helps me to think about that before I commit to helping someone.