Let’s say you are organizing your company’s big end-of-year conference. You’ve invited 50 of your company’s best clients and 25 prospective clients. If all goes well, the conference could bring in millions of dollars in sales.
You put together a team of people to help you with preparations. And you interview a dozen more before choosing “Jeff” to handle all the event details. He makes a very compelling pitch. He knows the best audio-visual teams in town. He has contacts with the best caterers. And he knows the perfect designer to create your banners and signs and brochures.
You check in with Jeff every week – and each time, he assures you that the planning is right on schedule…
But you start to get worried when you aren’t seeing results. Turns out, Jeff is swamped with other events he has to plan… and he’s pushed yours to the bottom of his pile. With only a few weeks left, you fire Jeff and find someone new. Of course, there’s no way you’ll hire him again – or recommend him to anyone else.
Building a solid reputation (in business or personally) requires diligent and consistent action. It can blow up in an instant. No matter your past accomplishments, one unfortunate incident can ruin it all.
And it doesn’t take a major violation – stealing, embezzlement, or fraud – to call your integrity into question. Distrust raises its ugly head in small ways, too. And breaking a promise – whether it’s failing to follow through on a project or canceling a lunch meeting at the last minute – is dishonorable in its own way.
MaryEllen Tribby, Publisher and CEO of Early to Rise, recently wrote about a lunch meeting she’d set up with a former protege who had moved on to start her own consulting business. MaryEllen made time in her busy schedule for the appointment. Yet, while making a routine follow-up call to confirm the date, she found that the young woman had forgotten about it completely. She’d never even put it on her schedule. Needless to say, MaryEllen’s opinion of her took a nosedive.
A scheduled appointment is an obligation to be taken seriously. You cannot build a solid reputation if you honor only the commitments that are convenient for you… yet expect others to honor all of theirs.
Promises mean a lot. They suggest appreciation, value, empathy – and, when fulfilled, give pleasure. In a very real sense, promises are a time-debt to be paid. If you create the obligation (promise), it is a debt you must honor.
Here are some techniques for keeping yours…
Promise-Keeping Technique #1: Make your promises sparingly.
Think twice before making too many promises.
Promise-Keeping Technique #2: Make realistic promises – promises that you are capable of completing.
It is easier to keep a promise when it involves doing a small task. But even if the task is larger and harder to finish… it’s still a promise.
Promise-Keeping Technique #3: Make promises that are important – to you.
Ask yourself, “Will this promise keep me on track for completing my goals? Will honoring this promise advance my career?” If there is no value in the promise for you, it will be easier to break.
Promise-Keeping Technique #4: Make your promises honestly.
If you are making promises simply to please people… you will end up over-scheduling yourself and slowing your progress in achieving your goals.
Be honest. Know that breaking promises will erode your trust in yourself. Get in the habit of keeping promises, especially the ones you make to yourself.
Broken promises result in missed opportunities, resentment, and anxiety. Furthermore, broken promises can lead to damaged friendships and loss of business. Everyone loses when you break a promise that the other person was relying on before they can take action.
Most people don’t mind the occasional broken promise, with a reasonable explanation or heartfelt apology. However, the most successful people I know value the promises they make and keep their promises faithfully. It is a matter of integrity and personal honor.
We are all busy. And with time being so limited, nothing is more important than quickly building solid relationships with your coworkers, partners, friends, family, customers, and vendors. Broken promises will destroy your credibility with them.
Promise-Keeping Technique #5: Make and keep ONE promise a day.
I want you to try to honor just one promise a day. If you can do that, in just a year you will have positively impacted 365 people. That is far better than trying to please 10 people a day by making promises you can’t keep and end up pleasing none.
And I want you to make and honor one promise a day to yourself, too. Then watch how a week of seven promises kept… turns into a month of 30 promises kept… and then a year of 365 promises kept. Write them down in your daily planner and put a “star” next to each one kept. By the end of the year you will see a constellation of success… and will have developed a habit that will keep rewarding you throughout your life.
I pride myself on making promises sparingly and keeping them faithfully… including the promises I make to myself. For instance, about three and a half years ago, I set a goal to obtain my private pilot’s license. At the time, I had no idea it would be as hard as it was to accomplish, cost as much as it did, or take so much time to complete.
I had to keep reminding myself that this was a promise to me. I needed to honor that promise to maintain my own self-esteem, so I persevered. (And let me tell you, it was a very lonely and frustrating process.)
However, I did earn my private pilot’s license. Not only that, I purchased an airplane, and I have set two world airspeed records.
When I fly, the feeling of wonder and freedom is at times overwhelming. The joy is indescribable. In fact, my co-pilots and I often say to each other: “Don’t you wish everyone you know and love could have this incredible experience?”
You can achieve almost any goal, personal or professional, you set for yourself. It may take more time than you expect, cost more money, or even challenge your belief in yourself. But you can make it happen. I’ve done it. So can you!
Begin today by making and keeping one promise to another person… and one to yourself.