It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to do what you say you’re going to do — not just in your business, but also in everyday life. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to build your reputation with anyone who comes in contact with you, and I don’t have to tell you how important this is to your employees and customers.

Under-promise/over-deliver, it’s a mantra everyone in the service industry should know, and yet many times simply delivering on a promise is a struggle for some, largely because they over-promise.

It’s no secret everyone is busy — overextended is probably much more accurate, and as a result sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to get to everything. It’s not an excuse; it’s just how many of us operate.

The trick is to find your limits (remember Clint Eastwood’s one liner in Dirty Harry – “A man’s got to know his limitations.”) Knowing realistically what you can and can’t do is easier said than done in this world where you’re trying to be everything to everybody. Knowing your limitations is one of the most difficult, yet impressive, qualities you can have as a leader.

Do people view you as reliable or unreliable based on what you’ve promised? I’ve found that over-promising often is the result of not being realistic about my available time. Consequently, several things can happen: I’m stretched too thin and don’t perform at an optimum level. I simply don’t get to everything or I get to it too late.

From the perspective of the eyecare professional, over-promising might mean over-booking, resulting in incomplete appointments and disappointed patients. For the deadline-oriented publishing business, missing deadlines usually means someone has been let down, or we’ve lost revenue – or both. Bad scenarios all the way around.

Being honest with yourself and understanding how much you can realistically handle is a great place to start. Then you can make commitments accordingly. The overload(s) can start with something as simple as I’ll call you, or I’ll email. We all have good intentions but then there is the reality of doing the work and performing at a high level.

Most of us are guilty of doing these things without even thinking of it. Make a conscious effort this week to see how many of the less important things you can stop promising to deliver. Remember, effective leaders are seen as individuals with reputations built on effectiveness and dependability.

Say “yes” when you mean “yes” and “no” when you mean “no.” Honesty is always the best policy. It may not always be popular, but it will gain you respect. I think most people would rather be slightly irritated when you say “no” than be disappointed you don’t follow through. Effective leadership demands the courage to speak the truth and follow through on everything you promise. Think about your family, customers, employees, vendors and everyone who looks to you for answers. What do they really want? What’s important to them? Honesty. If you think about it, keeping people happy is easier than you think…as long as you do what you say you’re going to do.

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