How Important Is Doing What You Say You’ll Do?

My colleague and I were talking recently about how often business leaders that we know don’t do what they say they’ll do. It could be something as important as following through on a commitment made in a planning meeting on a new strategic initiative, or something more pedestrian like promising to return a phone call and not doing so.

It’s not a big deal right? Even Aesop purportedly said, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

We Southerners are the worst about this. In case you think we’re serious when we say, “Just come on by the house anytime and we can visit,” we’re not. You’re taking a huge risk if you show up unannounced. We”re just being polite, okay? It’s part of our culture.

Southern culture aside, if you as a leader think people aren’t paying attention when you don’t keep your promises and commitments, then you couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some reasons why:

  1. A factor called “consideration” is the best single predictor of leadership success by a wide margin. This means that the people who follow you feel cared about. It’s pretty easy to see that folks don’t feel very cared about if you’re viewed as a BS artist.
  2. In an even broader context, sustained business success is about relationships and “social capital.” How much social capital do you think you have if you don’t follow through on your promises?
  3. One of the important parts of sustained financial success is teamwork. Teamwork is dependent on trust, and trust is dependent on doing what you say you’ll do.
  4. As a leader and exemplar you ARE the culture of your organization. You have all the power, and your strengths and weaknesses become the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. Do you really want your organizational culture to be one of empty promises and lack of trust?

There’s a better way.

High-Performance Habits

  1. Do what you say you’ll do.
  2. Just say “no.” If you’re not serious about the commitments you’re making, stop making them. Everyone I know is time challenged anyhow; don’t waste your time or anyone else’s.
  3. Reassure yourself that you’re not being mean or inconsiderate by doing this. In fact, the effect will be just the opposite; you’ll build trust and relationships that will help your business succeed.
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