Set yourself up to hit your deadlines

We all rely on each other to deliver what was committed to. In business, there are deadlines, commitments and expectations being set that others depend on so that they can make plans and commitments to their constituents.

People typically don’t try to miss their commitments. But having a person explain to you and break down the critical assumptions and dependencies provides visibility into how this commitment was put together.

This is an important step to do, especially early in a working relationship when there’s been no history working together.

Pleasing vs. serving

It’s very easy to try to please co-workers or customers and deliver a best-case timeline. Delivering best-case scenarios make people feel good (or relieved).

Unfortunately, if we set ourselves up to deliver on a certain date knowing full well that we’ll only really hit the mark if the sun and moon and stars align, we’ll certainly set ourselves up for delivering a disappointment.

Best-case scenarios are exactly that. While they can be much more fun to deliver, the responsible thing to do is to serve the customer or co-worker and commit to a date that is very reasonable, maybe not as desirable, but one that you can actually deliver on.

This also doesn’t mean that you’re sand bagging — committing to a date that is way out in the future and then beating it significantly. Serving, which is doing the hard thing but the right thing, is a trait that allows you to build trust and enables reliable partnerships to foster and build upon.

Communicate with clarity to minimize surprises

If you’ve got a team that will use this serving approach toward setting expectations, the next thing that is critical in delivering on commitments is a clear understanding of what needs to happen, i.e. understanding what’s in the scope of work.

Surprises that “come up” during the middle of the project many times are a result of the team uncovering things that were buried. When this happens, communication becomes the key in informing all parties about the surprise and potential impact to the schedule.

If this is a recurring issue, step back and look at how things are being scheduled. Is the approach based upon pleasing or serving?

Clarity around the underlying assumptions is critical to delivering successfully and on time. Having an environment where the individual or team has the ability to ask specific questions about a project and understand the context of it prior to making any commitment around deliverables will help minimize surprises.


Managing expectations properly is an essential skill that we all need; not doing this well has a strong downstream ripple effect. We need to make sure that if we’re hitting dates as planned, it’s intentional and our process and projections are based upon a methodology that are core to our environment and are scalable.


Pamela Springer is the founding partner of SpringerNav LLC. Pamela is a 20-year entrepreneurial executive focused on developing profitable strategies that scale, drive revenue and build cohesive teams.