Not enough ice creamComplaining on Facebook reagarding not being inspired to blog prompted an anecdote from Jan Harness about asking friends for 10 ideas she could share in a mentoring session she was conducting. One person provided 11 tips instead of 10; she included a tip to ALWAYS over deliver on what others expect. Jan related it to when she had asked me for a single cartoon for a presentation, but I drew an entire comic strip about Jan's creative experience with a really bad art teacher, Mr. O’Neill.

While retelling the Mr. O’Neill creative instigation story didn’t excite me, considering motivations for people to over deliver or give too much was intriguing. Jan’s creative instigation inspired this post with 21 ideas for reasons to over deliver or not.

14 Reasons to Over Deliver

When you’re doing something for someone, here are 14 reasons you might want to over deliver versus what they expect:

  • It creates greater value for them (thinking about value as the relationship between “Benefits” relative to the “Cost to receive the benefits.”
  • They may not be asking for enough of what they need or should be considering.
  • You see bigger possibilities in the work and want to bring those to fruition.
  • Over delivering will (or at least has the possibility to) create greater affinity, loyalty, or even a sense of obligation on their part.
  • It stretches you to take on, learn, and accomplish new things.
  • It’s the “right” thing to do, for one or more reasons.
  • You’ve made a commitment along the way to do that much.
  • It’s what they want, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • It’s what they need, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • You gain enjoyment and a sense of purpose from being able to over deliver.
  • You’re focused on future opportunities and over-delivering now is simply part of the next work you’re going to do for them.
  • You cannot “not” seem to over deliver.
  • You down-sold expectations (i.e. you sandbagged during negotiations) and are simply delivering what you knew you could anyway.
  • You’re trying to showcase new capabilities.

7 Reasons to Not Over Deliver

The question about whether to over deliver or not certainly isn’t one-sided. There are also reasons where you might rightly decide to not over deliver for someone:

  • They’re asking for the wrong thing or something they don’t need and giving them more of it won’t be beneficial to them.
  • They’re demanding or expecting too much already.
  • They’ve not acted in good faith in the relationship.
  • The relationship is on its last legs and doesn’t warrant investing any more in it.
  • What they’ve asked for keeps changing so much you can’t even be sure you’re delivering what they expected originally.
  • You’ve done everything you can.
  • They aren’t able to appreciate any more than what they asked for originally.

Do you have a tendency to give too much?

I didn’t go into creating this list with a target of 21 ideas, or making 2/3 of them reasons to over deliver and 1/3 reasons  not to do it. But in any event, there’s a certain numerical (and business) sense in those ratios, at least from my perspective. Makes sense that you might try to over deliver about 2/3 of the time.

How about you? What is your thinking when you consider whether or not to over deliver? - Mike Brown


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