‘U is for Under-promise (Over-deliver)’
It is perhaps the curse of all believers in the power of art to transform the world into a space of wonder that they delude themselves in all earnestness that anything may be possible with enough work, enough passion, enough purpose. Just as timing is an invaluable knowledge set, so is the possession of self-discipline to know how much is too much to reasonably accomplish with the resources to which one has access. Arts leaders are constantly having to enthuse their support base, members, volunteers, constituents, etc. This condition depends on their ability to express the vigor of their vision in terms that can make converts and inspire action. Countless arts leaders have gotten themselves into overwhelming situations when the unforeseen realities encountered when implementing projects confront the idealistic dreams of a brighter day if only everything had worked to plan. Maintaining espirit de corps among the Board, the support base, the funders, the community, artists, and staff when obstacles arise and original outcomes projected or promised become compromised is often a difficult, embarrassing, and stressful endeavor. It also causes your stakeholders to question your judgment, your credibility, and your capacity to perform the duties of the role with which you’ve been entrusted.
Therefore, it is imperative that after you’ve worked out the broad strokes and finer details of any ambitious project that you enjoin the collaboration of others on staff and the Board for their feedback and troubleshooting. You need the insights and questions, and challenges posed by others with the acumen and ability to provide clear and objective guidance if this magnificent world shaking program is to actually effect the change in the world you believe. What resources can you actually rely on? What about the costs, can you actually count on that funding stream remaining the same or increasing as projected? What outside factors could derail this plan, and what are your back-up strategies for dealing with such contingencies? Who can you realistically count on, what pieces of the puzzle can they reliably deliver, and when? These are just a few of the myriad questions that need to be considered.
This is why you should always under-promise to others what you intend to produce, then work diligently to over-deliver on the results. In this way you’ve exceeded expectations, raised stakeholder trust in your abilities, and increased the likelihood of future support, and put your organization in an ever better position to create meaningful works of art that make an impact on the lives of your audiences.