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Posted: October 21, 2014

Best of CoBiz: Under-promise and over-deliver

...and other rules for success

Laurence B. Valant

(Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.)

The temptation is to over promise and this always results in under delivery.

When asked to do something, we too easily reply, "Yes, I think so." When in fact a little thought would make it clear we are over-promising and therefore will not be able to deliver as promised.

And to be sure, the person who made the initial, often unreasonable request will forget that the request was unreasonable and only remember your failure to deliver.

And unfortunately, this behavior is most likely to occur when and where we can least afford failure: when we are under pressure from our bosses and our clients.

Before committing 1) clarify what is being required, 2) ensure necessary resources are available and 3) always add additional time for the unexpected. This pause for planning will make it almost impossible to over promise and therefore under deliver.

Pause before you commit. Learn to under promise and over deliver. You will earn a reputation for reliability and dependability. Not a bad way to be perceived.

Don't live someone else's dream.

The world is filled with people who work for a paycheck, go through the motions and watch others make dreams come true.

I have always held a leadership role and learned very early in life that I cannot hope to have people join with me and follow my dream or vision unless I have defined and articulated that dream intelligently and with passion. I have also learned that living my own dream requires an ability to set goals, create a plan and follow through with determination! People will follow a dream with purpose to it!

Every person who walks out their front door every Monday morning should ask, "Have I found fulfillment in my work world? Can I can identify with the vision and dream of the company or individuals with whom I have chosen to align? Do the leaders of my company or do I as a leader communicate my dreams and my vision with passion? "

If the answer to any of these questions is "no", you are living someone else's dream.

Leaders are born; they cannot be made or developed.

True leadership is the ability to get people to follow you. The ability to lead is given to us at birth, and cannot be learned or feigned.

Natural leadership can be illustrated on a small scale (micro leadership) by childhood play. If we reflect, we can identify those who led us during childhood or perhaps we realize that during childhood play, we led.

On a larger scale (macro leadership) leaders such as Jesus, Hitler, and Gandhi inspired legions to follow them. In both the micro and macro illustrations, leadership is the natural, God-given ability to get people to follow you.

Also in both micro and macro leadership, a vision is stated and the followers perceive they can meet their needs by following. The ability to communicate a vision is essential to leadership.

Indeed, we would never have known who Jesus or Hitler or Gandhi were had they not been able to communicate their vision.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

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Readers Respond

use this for interview paper By Tasha on 2014 10 21
Using hitler as an example of good leadership and Jesus/Ghandi as comparisons?? Please!! By George on 2009 11 10
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