“I’ll get back to you with an answer before the end of the day.” “We’re going to have huddles every day.” “Your first performance review will be in 90 days.” “From now on, I’m going to live and follow my budget.” “I’m going to start working out and eating right.” “I will stop hesitating on tough decisions.” “I will be on time.” While the list of commitments you can make is endless, there is no question that commitments, even the simple ones, are at the mercy of your thinking and behavior.
Commitments are more than “soft” promises. Commitments are an expression and an extension of your character and honoring what you have given your word to do. Most often, commitments are made with the best intentions. But commitments that are not scheduled and supported by a plan of action will fall through the cracks. And when commitments are broken, the level of trust in your ability to keep commitments is compromised and degraded. Break enough commitments, and you’ll lose the trust, support and cooperation of those around you. More importantly, you will lose trust in yourself.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to make keeping commitments the foundation that your character and honor are built on:
- Commitments to yourself: You can’t keep commitments to others when you routinely break commitments to yourself. This has everything to do with your own patterns of behavior and thinking. If you’re habitually late for meetings, phone calls and everything else that is time based, your pattern of behavior is telling you that you have become “comfortable” with breaking such commitments. If you can’t stick to a diet or workout program, you’re breaking commitments to yourself. Even though you don’t like it, you’re OK with breaking commitments. The only way to change this pattern is to change how you view and support commitments you make to yourself. Strategies interviewed Jack Canfield a few years ago and he offered this simple concept: “Ninety-nine percent is a bitch; 100% is a breeze.” If you’re 100% committed, it’s a done deal. If you’re 99% committed, you need to re-decide every day. That’s a powerfully simple mental check to remain true to your commitments.
- Commitments to others: Every time you make a commitment to others, you are making a binding contract to deliver what was promised when it was promised. As a leader, breaking any commitment, large or small, is breaking a contract and chips away at the trust and respect of those who depend on your leadership. Don’t make casual commitments that may be difficult for you to fulfill. Don’t make major commitments that will overflow your plate and be impossible to fulfill. Don’t introduce new policies, systems and procedures that you don’t back with the necessary training, support and accountability – or don’t intend to follow yourself. Remember this: If you would stop doing business with a company that has a pattern of breaking its word, agreements or contracts, employees and customers will “quit” you if you do the same. Commitments to others are contracts. Fulfill the contract or don’t make it at all.
- Your commitment to your “commitments”: Having anyone say, “I don’t trust you,” is gut-wrenching. It’s even worse when you say, “I don’t trust you” to the face in the mirror. Keep breaking commitments and you will lose your capacity to lead and, ultimately, your self-respect. True, trust and respect can be regained, but the disruption the process inflicts on a company can linger for years. We are all guilty of breaking commitments. We know exactly when we make commitments that we likely will fail to deliver. We know when we’re about to break a commitment we’ve already made. Here’s the most important fact to remember: Breaking a commitment is a conscious decision. There is a choice – and the decision to break a commitment can be avoided. But in order to stop breaking commitments, you need to make a commitment. No compromise.
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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership
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