Overdelivering Is a Terrible Habit
Please. Stop. Overdelivering.
Stick with me for a minute, and I’ll explain.
I love working with high-achievers like you because of your desire to add value and make a difference every single day. But chronic over-delivery holds you back in your career. It keeps you in the weeds and distracts you from engaging, high-value work. It also infringes on your life outside of the office and is a recipe for burnout. Ask me how I know!
It’s often rooted in perfectionism, people-pleasing, and the idea that doing more is better. It's being so conscientious about the little things that you rarely have time to pursue the bigger ideas. Sound familiar?
Take This Quick Checkpoint:
Do you consistently take on work from your directs or other teams?
Do you absorb work that doesn’t align to your stated goals?
Do you feel like you don't have time to pursue the big ideas?
Do you feel unfairly recognized, overworked, or under-compensated?
Have you watched your peers succeed by doing far less?
Have you given up on the concept of work/life balance?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’ve fallen into the habitual over-delivery trap. It’s a recipe for overwhelm, burnout, and career stagnation.
The Good News . . . It’s shockingly simple to redirect that energy in a way that furthers your career: think quality versus quantity. Rather than seeking to add more to your plate or sweating the details on everything, set out to consciously and strategically exceed expectations in just a few areas.
Here are a few ways to subtly shift.
Overdeliver On Relationships
It’s great to deliver ahead of schedule and under budget, but if you drive your team into the ground and alienate your peers, it diminishes your true effectiveness. Aim instead for on-time and on-budget delivery with co-workers who respect, admire, and rave about you.
Exceed expectations by moving from transactional interactions to quality relationships. Focus on helping people achieve their goals, and they will follow you into fire. Building a team of loyal followers and allies will serve you long-term . . . well after a particular project is done and forgotten.
Going above and beyond with your relationships transcends roles, organizations, industries, and time. Overdeliver away.
Overdeliver On Work That Moves the Organization and Your Career Forward
Efforts to overdeliver often go unnoticed because you’re focused on work that is unimportant to the broader organization. If it’s not visible or aligned with what the decision-makers value, it can actually lower your perceived value because it’s not clear what you bring to the table.
Understand first what matters to decision-makers, then determine where to go the extra mile.
Perceived value turns into real dollars when chronic over-delivery results in not being paid for your contributions. Don't do the work of three people on one person's salary. Know your value.
And if you're assuming that taking on more and more will make you a shoo-in for that raise or promotion? You know what they say about assumptions. Have the necessary conversations with your manager before you assume that over-delivery will get the recognition you expect.
Likewise, reserve your energy for those efforts that directly affect your next big career goal: that raise, promotion, or skill that will help you take a giant leap. Throw yourself into the work tied to those goals. Of course, you still need to meet expectations for your other goals, but save the over-delivery for the ones connected directly to furthering your career.
Beware perfectionist habits that drive you to linger on work that doesn't materially impact your big goals and relationships.
Overdeliver On Values . . . like Health, Growth, and Connection
I’m here to help you design a career and life on your own terms. Whether you seek fulfillment through work or outside of the office, the key is to build healthy habits now that will serve you throughout your career.
Limit overdelivering if it doesn’t align to your most important values . . . or risk having a long career of wasting time and energy on stuff that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Overdeliver on things that connect to your purpose and have meaning.
Prioritize relationships with your partner, kids, family, friends, and oh yeah, yourself. If you're not in top condition, how are you going to help anyone else? When your own mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional capacity is diminished, so is your impact.
The perfectly crafted email or doomed-to-fail project that sucks up all your time will not even register in six months let alone 5, 10, or 20 years. Make it easy on yourself, and nip your perfectionist and people-pleasing tendencies in the bud before they come life-long habits.
Be intentional and strategic about what values and #lifegoals are important. Then draw a clear line between those and everything else. Overdeliver on work that connects to your values, and let the rest of the busy-work fall away.
Strategic over-delivery = a great way to catapult your career, build long-lasting relationships, and make an impact that you and others value.
Chronic over-delivery = a great way to burn out, disempower others, and hold yourself back.
I’m all about exceeding expectations. I just want you to do it in a way that builds you up rather than depletes you. All you need is a plan.
If you tend towards chronic over-delivery, now is a great time to get really honest with yourself about what’s driving that behavior. Then, focus your energy and intention on overdelivering where it really counts.
I hope this article makes you think more strategically about exceeding expectations. What changes are you ready to make? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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