We all make commitments like those above all day long. We make commitments to our spouse, friends, employers, colleagues and fellow employees. Commitments can be in the form of a promise, request, assertion or assessment. It’s important to realize that everything you do or say is a commitment and viewed that way by others.
Picture this familiar scene – you are in a two hour Monday morning meeting with several coworkers. Joe asks you, “Can you please stop by the jobsite this week and check on those fixtures?” You immediately blurt out “Sure.” And as simple as that you made a commitment to Joe. If you weren’t taking great notes in the very long meeting you are likely to forget all about this promise. Next week rolls around and your back in the boardroom and Joe asks, “How’d that site visit go?” You respond without even thinking about it, “Ugh, completely forgot. I’ll get out there today.” You get out of the meeting with full intention of heading to the site, but then you remember you have to leave early today because it’s your daughter’s birthday. You justify to yourself that it’s not a big deal and you’ll get to it tomorrow. In the meantime, Joe has made promises (commitments) to the field guys and his customer that the fixtures will be installed. Since you didn’t follow through on your commitment, Joe has broken his. It seems simple, but breaking commitments means breaking trust. How can Joe possibly rely on you going forward?
Do you find yourself making commitments and then dropping the ball, or disappointing the person you made the commitment to? How can you make more powerful commitments?
First of all, we need to stop and think before we speak, take a moment to analyze the impact of our actions and have a solid understanding of what a commitment is. There are three parts to a powerful commitment:
- Time horizon – when does the commitment need to be fulfilled?
- Conditions of satisfaction – what must happen for the requestor to be satisfied?
- Consequence – what happens if the acceptor does not fulfill?
To be reliable and build trust over long time horizons you must have 1) the competence to perform; 2) knowledge of how long it will take; 3) the time and capacity to fulfill the request by the required deadline 4) the ethics to not let other issues distract you from your commitment. The biggest key to powerful commitments is the ability and the respect to say NO.
In closing try to look before you leap, build trust by being reliable because you do what you say because you’ve taken the time to think about 1-4 above before you make a promise not afterward. Be responsible to yourself and others for your commitments. Be accountable for the ones you made in the past: responsible for the ones you make in the present: and committed to seeing the ones you make in the future to a successful completion.