Put an End to the “Over Promise and Under Deliver” Syndrome

In the case of Ellen and Paul, Paul’s overly agreeable behavior caused an entire project to veer off track – which could end up costing the company a lot of money.  Of course Paul didn’t mean to cause a problem.  He had the best of intentions to get the interviews done and did not want to disappoint Ellen or his team.

At Psychological Associates we call this behavior Q3.  As a manager, you can’t take Q3’s overly agreeable assurances for granted. The surprise Ellen learns near the deadline is no fun for a manager. It’s a plus that Paul gets along with people, and he will probably learn valuable insights for the project. But it could be that he was overly optimistic about how much he could accomplish, or he may have gotten bogged down in conversation during those interviews. Ellen needed to check with Paul regularly and probe to be sure he stayed on track.  Most importantly she needed to get more information regarding progress than a simple “It’s going fine.”

How to Work With Q3 Behavior

Q3 often wants to please so much that negative information will be hidden or put off until it’s too late. Ellen needs a strategy for working with Paul to establish a relationship in which Paul will feel comfortable giving her bad news or asking for help when a problem arises.

Ellen should remind Paul frequently that she needs his best and most honest thinking. She should make a benefit/consequence statement; for example, “Paul, if we have your interview information for our first report, our research will be off to a great start. On the other hand, if we miss the target, it will drag us down right out of the box. How can I help you to meet the deadline?”

Other tools Ellen could use for working with Q3 overly friendly behavior are probes and summary statements. With a non-threatening tone, Ellen could ask, “Are you able to schedule your interviews with your current work schedule?” or “How many people have you been able to see?”  These questions will help her catch any delays before they become a problem for the team.

A summary is almost like stating an agreement. This style will help Ellen build commitment from Paul. “So, Paul, you’re saying that you think you’ll finish by Thursday.” Rather than respond with what she’d like to hear, Paul is more likely to be realistic when faced with giving a definite yes.

The most vital key is developing an atmosphere in which candor is perceived as a positive, not a negative. This requires building trust.


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