Stopping the boss from promising too much

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Question: “How can I get my boss to stop committing to things (such as speaking engagements) that he can’t cover? I’ve tried to convince him to commit someone from the organization, not himself specifically, but to no avail.

“Alternatively, how do I gracefully decline something he has committed to when he can’t make it at the last minute? We try to offer someone as a replacement, but that doesn’t always work.”  -- Anonymous


Comments

“I imagine that your boss really enjoys public speaking and also wants to get your organization’s message out as much as possible. However, his excessive cancellations damage his reputation and the reputation of your organization.

“If you haven’t already, start by tracking how many cancellations you handle. He sounds like a busy, frenetic person, whose daily crises fade from memory when the sun goes down. Presenting data about his cancellations might help him see the problem.

“Also, does he send a personal note apologizing to clients that he cancelled on? If not, you might dare to draft one each time, and ask him to sign it before you send it. Being confronted with the consequences of his overbooking should give him pause. It’s easier to cancel when someone else has to apologize and clean up the mess.

“You could also spin your suggestions about controlling his schedule this way: If he only books as many speaking engagements as he can fulfill, he will have only happy clients. Also, by sometimes saying, “No, I’m not available until next month,” it will actually enhance his image and reputation because he will be perceived as very much in demand. For example, you can’t always get a reservation at the best restaurant in town, can you? In contrast, a not-so-good restaurant will accept too many reservations and then make you wait for cold food.

“As for gracefully handling the last-minute cancellations, I handle tough phone calls with some of these techniques: I acknowledge the person’s anger, empathize with the person’s disappointment, apologize and try to offer some way to make it better. I don’t know what your business is, but maybe you have some discounts to give.

“Also, be very mindful of your language when apologizing. You aren’t apologizing for something you did. You’re apologizing for something someone else did. “So-and-so has asked me to apologize for ... .”) Creating this separation will keep some of the heat off you, and in my experience, some people will actually respect you for handling a problem not of your making. It may even help disappointed clients believe that some people at your organization are reliable.”

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