Have you ever been in a situation where you have been really, really looking forward to something but when you get it, or go there, if it’s a place, the experience has been nowhere near as good as you were expecting?
Now if it’s because you have an over-active imagination and an unreasonable expectation, that’s entirely your own doing. But, how many times is it because somebody has made you lots of promises and then it simply hasn’t met the expectation they’ve set?
In my work as a professional motivational speaker, I always point out to meeting planners there are some things I can guarantee, and some things I can’t. Often the things I can’t guarantee are the things that will really make a difference to their attendees long after the event is over. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. I promise my client I will do everything in my power to get as many of their desired outcomes as possible. But I will never promise to deliver outcomes that are not entirely within my gift. I find that customers respect this, and they often tell me that it is my honest approach alongside my stage and delivery skills which has influenced their choice to work (and work again) with me.
I think one of the mistakes that people often make is to apply this formula in their professional life and not their personal life. I know that’s been true for me in my past. Like many adults, I have been divorced, I had a relationship that failed. I take at least partial responsibility for that failure. Perhaps it was because I under delivered and over promised? This is the worst type of under delivery, it is the type that does lasting damage to the relationship, as my own experience proves. One of the things I believe made this even worse, was because I’d often find myself breaking a personal promise to honour of a work commitment, knowing full-well that I had a personal commitment already.
On a more positive note, using this formula in your personal life as a parent can create a magical experience for your kids. I know, I have a real example from my own childhood.
When I was a youngster (around 1978) I got into computers. My mum and dad had normal jobs, my mum worked in a shop and my dad worked in a dairy. They had never been anywhere near a computer in their lives. I was lucky and I had a talent, so at 12 years old I managed to write, and for a small fee, sell my first computer program.
In July of 1980 (my birthday month) I asked them if I could have a home computer as a combined birthday and Christmas present. I said I’d be happy to wait until Christmas to receive it. I gave them the information for the one that I wanted and I really pushed my luck. The price for the computer was about £275 (remember a brand new Ford Escort car would have cost £3,700 back then, which was more than my dad’s annual salary). My mum and dad said that they “would see what they could do” but things had been tough and I shouldn’t hold my breath. They suggested maybe I could look for a cheaper alternative. I took this as code for “no”.
On Christmas day 1980 I opened a box and inside it was a computer worth about three times the value of the one I’d asked for.
They had spoken to my who had told them I was genuinely very interested in computers. They had done their own research, which had involved contacting and speaking to a lecturer in I.T. at our local University and asking about what a future career working with computers might look like for me.
I found out later as an adult, they had also gone along to the store and signed a Hire Purchase agreement for the computer. It meant they could pay for it over three years, as it was the only way they could afford to get me the right one that the “nice man” at the University had recommended.
Just try to imagine the feeling I had on that day and on every day I used the computer to write software and generally learn all about I.T. As my formula shows, my parents under promised and over delivered in a massive way for me and it made a difference to me for the rest of my life.
In closing I want to be absolutely 100% clear it wasn’t the object that made me happy, and getting the object for me wasn’t what made my parents great parents.
A great parent can under promise and over deliver in ways that cost absolutely nothing at all. Simply telling your child that you may not make a team game or school production and then being there is a great example of under promising and over delivering. The challenge here is it often takes more effort on the part of the parent than simply buying a gift from the store.
*** Here’s a bit about the formula and a worked example… but don’t worry it isn’t that hard ***
My formula helps me to remember one of the reasons I get on with people is because I don’t let them down. The reason I don’t, is because I deliver (big D) more than I promise (little p). The placement of the D and p are important as well. The ‘D’elivery being divided by the ‘p’romise means I will always end up with a POSITIVE NUMBER that is bigger than ‘1’ if I Deliver more than I promise.
In mathematics the number 1 is significant because it is the first complete or whole number. So for me it is the sign of a complete or whole delivery and the minimum I should be looking to score.
For example if I (p)romise I will do 3 things and I (D)eliver 6 then I will have scored +2 on my satisfaction scale (6/3), which for me is a BIG WIN.
If I end up promising more than I deliver, then I will always end up with a fraction. A fraction is bad because I haven’t delivered the whole thing I promised.
For example if I (p)romise I will do 6 things and I (D)eliver 3 then I will have scored 1/2 on my satisfaction scale (3/6), which for me is not ideal.
Ending up with a fraction reminds me that the person I am delivering for won’t be completely happy (a fraction is after all, only ever a part of something).
So lets run what my parents did through my formula. They promised me that they would probably only be able to afford something half as good as I wanted (so p = 0.5). They then got me something that was three times better than I asked for (so D = 3). So it’s no surprise that when I opened that box my satisfaction score was 3/0.5 = 6.
In reality it was OFF THE SCALE because I felt so loved and cared for.
*** End of formula bit ***
How many promises do you make compared to what you deliver?
Who do you know that falls into the over promise and under delivery trap? What can you do to point it out to them in a positive way?
How has it felt to be on the receiving end of someone who has over promised and under delivered? What has it felt like when someone has delivered more than they promised?
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