Leadership: Under Promise; Over Deliver

Be conservative in terms of the promises you make on behalf of your organization. But then be radical in beating the deadlines you set.


If someone needs directions, we offer a copy of our maps, also free of charge. We will provide complete sets of maps to pizza vendors and other delivery outfits, and charge only enough to cover the cost of the materials used. I can't tell you how much that has been appreciated, especially since ours is a growing community with new streets and subdivisions added all the time.

If someone calls for a specific person who isn't there, we try to offer someone else's help. If the caller only wants the specific person they requested, we try to let them know when to expect a return call. Beyond that, some follow-up to ensure that the call was answered can be very helpful too.

The bottom line is that customers don't always expect much help from us. It's been said that there's nothing a public servant hates more than serving the public, and I'm always amazed at how many people think those of us in government service have that attitude. But we can dispel that myth with a little thoughtfulness, a little side trip out of our way to help someone who has a problem.

Returning to my computer story, I'm not na?ve enough to think that a large computer manufacturer went on red alert in order to get my computer out to me in less than the time promised. They probably knew all along that they could comfortably get it to me in eight days, so they promised it to me in ten. And I was dazzled by their service, especially in the context of my experience with the rival company.

So give it some thought, will you? Be conservative in terms of the promises you make on behalf of your organization. But then be radical in beating the deadlines you set. I promise you, your customers will be delighted with your service!

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Bruce Thompson is the chief of the Sierra Vista(AZ) Fire Department. Chief Thompson started his fire service career in 1974. He is a Past President of the Arizona Fire Chiefs? Association and a 1989 graduate of the National Fire Academy?s Executive Officer Program. E-mail Chief Thompson at: bthompson@ci.sierra-vista.az.us