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Leadership and success

What creates a culture of underperformance

The other day I was having a chat with an old colleague, a seasoned professional in the banking domain
I asked him about his success mantra over all these years
I always underpromise and overdeliver” he said “That is what makes me successful!
And he is not alone....
Most of us who have worked in the corporate world are actually taught to embrace this approach :
Underpromise and overdeliver
But I simply do not get it !!
Because the truth is….
When you underpromise, you are NOT doing anything great
You are just playing safe and being conservative
You are avoiding any risks
You are keeping your bar low, so that you can easily achieve it
And I find that really hard to understand
Why would you do so ?
When you underpromise, you do not realize that you are in fact, cheating your own self of your true potential
You are limiting your ability to dream, think and deliver
If you achieve something which you were mostly likely to achieve, is that a true measure of your potential and of your success ?
I do not think so !
And it is not an individual thing - this philosophy has been ingrained in our corporate culture

It is even glorified and celebrated - I know leaders who will merrily boast about it

Managers pass this down to their team members, who then live by it and eventually pass it on further, till this becomes pervasive

But if you take a step back and think....

This approach of underpromise and overdeliver ultimately creates a culture of underperformance
And when people want to play safe and do not want to take risks, it kills innovation and entrepreneurship
So what should be your approach ?
Overpromise and overdeliver !
This might sound outrageous - even intimidating and scary, right ?

“How can I promise something which I cannot deliver?”
“What happens if I overpromise and fail to deliver?”
But first, let us understand what overpromise really means
It does NOT mean you set unrealistic goals
It does NOT mean you are being impractical
The very essence of overpromise is to set your performance bar really really high
Commit to something bigger and bolder
Set really high standards of excellence, not just for yourself, but your teams
Something which really challenges and pushes you out of your comfort zone
Whatever is making you feel safe and comfortable is also holding you back
The essence of overpromise is to stretch yourself and create possibilities where none exist today
That is how you stand out as a leader, both in professional as well as personal life
Let me give you an example from sports to illustrate my point
All players prepare very hard to compete in an event such as Olympics
Every player aims for the gold medal. Nothing less
That is the promise they make to themselves, their families, their coaches and to their country

Ever heard a player preparing for a silver or bronze medal ? NEVER
Understandably, aiming for the gold would be a stretch for a lot for them ( and they may actually know it ), but nevertheless, gold is what they aim for
And they plan for it, train for it with their heart and soul, not getting distracted by the fact whether it will eventually happen or not
Now only a very tiny percentage of them succeed eventually, but that does not mean that others did not deliver their best
And that is the whole point….
Going after something bigger and bolder and giving your best
The motto of modern Olympics embodies the spirit of this approach - Citius, Altius, Fortius ( Faster, Higher, Stronger )
So how should you go about it ?
Well, the overpromise has to be well thought through
You need to be convinced that there is an opportunity and you need to have a plan to achieve it
And you know what....

It does NOT really matter whether you achieve it or not
It is that commitment and conviction towards something which is so bold, so audacious that it both excites you and scares you, that counts
It is the effort that you put in to make it happen that counts
Ofcourse, there’s a risk involved in this approach
You put yourself , your name, your reputation on the line every time you overpromise
But that also means you are playing BIG
And you will not be able to deliver every time - you need to be ready for that as well, taking in full accountability

But when you overpromise and you are able to deliver, you stand out
You set a precedence which will be hard to follow
You inspire and motivate your teams as a powerful leader
At workplace, this approach can encourage innovation, bold thinking and create an entrepreneurial culture
It can eventually increase performance levels across the organization and even bring out the real heroes within the teams
Ofcourse, it is a cultural and mindset shift so it will not happen easily, but YOU can initiate that change
You can take the same philosophy and apply it in your personal life as well

For all those who know me personally, I am a big risk taker at heart
That is how I thrive and that’s what I encourage my clients to do - challenge and push themselves, way beyond they have ever done
So this time around, when you are planning for 2022 and beyond….
Do not underpromise
Overpromise and then, overdeliver
Play a big game !

So here is a single reflection for you this week :

1) What can you commit to, which is bigger and bolder than you have ever thought of ? What will be your overpromise for 2022 ?
I would be interested to know what came up for you, as you read and reflected on this email
Do share your thoughts and feedback
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and prosperous Diwali


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