How impeccable are you with your word?
Have you ever told your team that you were going to do something and then never actually got around to doing it?
Maybe you decided later on that something else was a higher priority. Or perhaps it slipped your mind entirely.
Either way, you didn’t get around to doing something that others were counting on you to do.
It happens. I sure know that I’ve been guilty of this a few times in my own life. I mean, after all, we’re human.
Even when we want to be impeccable with our word, life sometimes gets in the way.
I’ve seen this happen particularly often with well-intentioned leaders who truly value their team’s input. Maybe they do a brainstorming session about changes they want to implement in the team. New projects they want to focus on. Or changes to projects that are already underway.
You personally commit to undertaking some of the steps that are necessary for this change to occur.
And then… reality hits.
You never actually end up getting around to doing those tasks.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
Your team has become all inspired at the idea that things will change and improve. But then they feel disappointed and deflated when nothing moves forward.
I’ve seen this happen with team after team. Even the best of leaders struggle to keep up with everything on their plate at times. It most certainly doesn’t make them a bad person. Or a bad leader.
But the problem is that when you tell someone that you’ll do something and then don’t, people slowly start to lose trust in you. No matter how good of a leader you are.
It doesn’t necessarily happen the first time that your not impeccable with your word. But if this becomes a pattern of behaviour, your team will slowly start to lose trust in you. And when people lose trust in you, they stop following your leadership.
It’s as simple as that.
So what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen?
Be impeccable with your word.
Easier said than done right?
Life happens and circumstances change. You may truly want to do something one day and believe you have the time to commit to it, only to realize later on that you can’t give that commitment the time you had anticipated.
How can you be impeccable with your word so that your team will trust you, despite the ever-changing landscape of expectations and priorities?
1. Recognize your own limits.
Before you commit to anything, ask yourself a few questions. “Do I truly have time to commit to this right now?”. “Is the proposed timeline reasonable for me?”. Don’t just commit to requests instinctually. Do it because you want to and can.
2. Learn to prioritize.
Don’t choose priorities solely based on what others are asking you to do. Reflect on everything that needs to be done. Before you commit, ask yourself: “How high of a priority is this compared to my other current obligations?”. Even if it’s something important to you, if your other priorities highly outweigh the current request, now may not be a good time to commit.
3. Learn to disappoint others.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But it’s better to disappoint others by letting them know upfront that you can’t commit to something than it is to disappoint them by accepting a commitment that you end up not keeping. Direct and empathetic is kind. Telling someone you can do something because you don’t want to let them down and then never doing it, or doing a rush job on it, is not.
4. Be transparent.
If you’ve committed to something, but then find that you aren’t able to give it the attention it needs, just be transparent. It happens to all of us. We’re human. But the worst thing you could do in this scenario would be to just pretend that you’ve just forgotten that you made a commitment in hopes that no one else will remember. Address the issue directly with whoever you’ve made the commitment with. This is still being impeccable with your word, which will maintain trust.
5. Be humble
If it happens that you do forget something you’ve committed to, just be humble about it. Own the responsibility that is yours to own. Apologize. Not just one of those flippant apologies or one that tries to excuse it away, such as “I’m sorry, but I’ve been really busy and blah, blah, blah”. Own it entirely. Try something like “I know I’d told you I’d get that done for Friday. It entirely slipped my mind. I apologize. I know you were counting on me.”
Remember that your team notices every single time you tell them you’re going to do something and you end up not delivering. Being impeccable with your word is the best way to maintain the trust that is needed to lead a team to success.
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