“Under Promise and Over Deliver”.
This is one of my boss’ favorite quotes. I get it, and I agree with it.
But I also disagree with it. Ever so slightly.
What on earth am I talking about? Yes verbally, it is best to under promise and over deliver. It makes you look good to others, and for those that do this well, they almost always seem to win or succeed at the task set before them.
But that’s exactly what I hate about that methodology. Following that statement allows for complacency to set in. After a while, you know exactly how long a specific type of project will take you, and so when you’re asked to give a time estimate, you tack on a few extra hours and bam! The forecast calls for sunny skies and smooth sailing for the foreseeable future. But where is the fun in that? Where is the challenge? Where are you given the opportunity to push yourself to innovate and undergo process improvement for your systems?
Now I’m not saying go kill yourself trying to push the limits every single day you’re in the office. But why should you only try to innovate when quarterly or yearly reviews come around? Why should you only ask your front-line workers what’s going wrong once a year in an employee survey and then setup sub-committees to review the issues, only to start implementing a process improvement plan several months after the survey was conducted? Why do we have to wait for a golden time to act? Are we still waiting for the tortoise to cross the finish line?
I lean towards the answer that we can lose our ability to improve because we choose to focus instead too much on the expected. We all like to know what it is exactly that we are supposed to do in our job (and if you do know, kudos to you! Tell me how you made that happen!). But somewhere along the line, we became a group of individuals that says “show me how high I have to jump and I’ll barely jump over that bar.” We no longer strive to exceed expectations because how do we know we will be thanked or compensated for our work? Is it worth our time and efforts to do so? And how did we even develop an attitude like this in the first place?
Lack of communication and appreciation. We get to the point of taking things and sometimes people for granted, and this kills collaboration.
So what do I think is the fix for this? Start smiling more. Be genuine with others when you see them. Ask them how they are doing and make your conversations about them, not about you. Show interest in their hobbies, even if you don’t like those interests. Even though you may hate country music, when your coworker goes to see Blake Shelton in concert, ask them how the concert was!
And most of all, be unexpected! Don’t wait to ask your coworkers or even your superiors what isn’t necessarily going well with the areas of your work that overlaps with their work. Don’t just send an email when a quick phone call will do the trick. Don’t just send over instructions on how to complete a series of online tasks: call the person and share your screens to help them navigate through the process. Or better yet, walk to their office and give them a hands on tutorial! Not only will it help the other person quickly learn from you, but it gives you the chance to see how other users are interpreting and processing the data or tasks that you oversee. This in turn can lead you to identify areas of potential improvement sooner, which can result in an overall improved experience for all users.
So start today by turning the tables upside down. Start smiling more, start thanking people out of the blue for being awesome and helping you with that project that you did last week. Push yourself to beat the proposed deadlines, to beat the time frame that you set for yourself, and to jump higher than where the bar has been set for you. Be unexpected, for when you take the initiation and defy expectations, that is only when you can truly begin to Under Promise and Over Deliver.