Over the course of my career I am constantly amazed at how many people in business make commitments and simply don’t deliver. I observe people in meetings who will make several commitments without even writing anything down. Why is this? My explanation is twofold; first, people genuinely and honestly think they are going to deliver on a commitment based on using their memory alone to remember what they committed to and second, many Managers are not very good at following up to ensure people in fact deliver on commitments, so not delivering on a commitment often goes unnoticed.
A key managerial responsibility is to have a system in which holds people accountable, to ensure they deliver on commitments. In the absence of this, a good deal of ‘lip service’ is in play. (not always but quite often) Some very successful executives I have worked with and for have been relentless about holding people accountable, especially those who habitually over promise and under deliver.
We gain trust from people who are true to their word, they become trustworthy and we know over the course of time they can be counted on. When commitments are not kept, trust is eroded and relationships suffer and communications often break down. In the workplace, your reputation and your personal values and Company values are on display every day. When you don’t deliver on commitments you are letting somebody down.
Look at Managers as an example, in the case of keeping to schedule for things like 1:1 scheduled communications. When you delay this or cancel at the last minute, you have broken a promise to an employee. When you do it continuously, it is a huge issue. How can a Manager expect employees to keep commitments when the Manager is not doing it themselves?
When a company is recruiting and making claims in the job posting of certain career progression and development opportunities, then fails to deliver, how do employees feel about that? Not good of course and often to the point of infringing on their personal values to the extent of deciding to leave the employer. When I see job postings which expound on “strong leadership, strong team environment, open communications, respect for the individual”, I often wonder if it is really true, or the company (or job posting writer) perhaps believes it to be true when in fact it is not. For companies that profess all these things and use this to attract top talent, and don’t keep this commitment, I can assure you they will have a very expensive recruitment budget and high and very costly turnover to boot.
When you make commitments to your customers and repeatedly don’t deliver, the customer will leave – it is the very same thing with employees!
Now, in my view, one of the easiest ways to get people to deliver on commitments is to make sure they write it down, yes, in meetings, in 1:1’s, even off-site, you can send yourself a reminder email. Managers who are good at employee communications are also good at holding people accountable by keeping close track of employee commitments and timelines and by asking ahead of the due date how it is going and if they as the Manager can help in any way. Even keeping very small commitments can earn huge respect both ways.
When I am interviewing I always ask questions about keeping commitments (with examples of course) because it is the foundation of building trust in the workplace, which is required for success in any business. So, the next time you make a commitment as an employee or as a manager, make sure you deliver; otherwise you are letting people down and eroding the very thing we are trying to develop in the workplace – trust!
By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner, TwoGreySuits www.twogreysuits.com