By Dr. Daneen Skube
I find many people in my workplace make great sounding promises and fail to deliver. I’m starting to not believe people when they make commitments. I don’t want to make the same mistake. How can I demonstrate integrity and how can I deal with so many people that have none?
You can demonstrate integrity by aiming to under promise and over deliver. You can deal with people with little integrity by lowering expectations and frequent reminders to them.
A wise teacher in my training told me: “The one person that is always listening when you make promises is you. If you fail to keep promises you’ll fail to believe in yourself and that undermines everything.” Thus, if I promise myself to eat better or exercise more, but I drop the ball with others, I also won’t believe myself.
The origin of the over promise and under deliver problem is that many adults hate disappointing people. Ironically, the more promises we make the more we increase our odds of experiencing what we’re trying to avoid.
What I teach clients is to listen to their gut instincts. If your gut says, “Nope”, then politely decline a commitment. You should only commit if you are certain you can deliver.
Indeed many people will be disappointed on the front end when you make fewer commitments. However, these same people will notice that when you do commit they can count on you like gravity.
As a business owner I listen closely to what clients tell me about how I work. I remember a client that moved to Europe. When I asked her what helped her the most her first response was: “Reliability. In a decade you’ve not been late, canceled, or rescheduled without advance notice.”
I was surprised that of all the tools I offer, one of the most important was simply showing up consistently. My readers may enjoy knowing that what may seem simple like punctuality, or keeping promises is a miracle in a world where integrity is a rare commodity.
If you plan on most people most of the time not keeping promises, you will rarely be disappointed. Also realise most people do not lack integrity out of maliciousness. They lack integrity because they fear conflict.
When you assume low integrity yo’’ll double and triple check all commitments people make. You’ll send emails reconfirming meetings days before and the morning of the meeting. You’ll send emails rechecking timelines and action plans. You’ll stop assuming anyone will do anything when they told you they would.
Some clients complain it’s not fair that they have to do all this extra work. I point out they will also be the ones luxuriating in delivered promises in a world where promises mean little.
When you double or triple check, make your tone friendly. You may explain you had phone or email issues and are circling back as a matter of habit. After a while people will expect you’ll reconfirm and often pay better attention to their responsibilities since they know you’re paying attention.
Just because you live in a world where integrity is rare does not mean your personal world needs to suffer from low integrity. If you make few commitments and treat these promises like gold you’ll always believe promises you make to yourself. If you assume no commitment from others, you’ll remind, reconfirm, and double check and others will have a chance to remember their promises.
We all have the power to live in a world that’s better than “normal” if we’re willing to be better than “normal”. Enjoy living in your new high-integrity world.
(The writer is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, and speaker, also appears as the Fox Channel’s “Workplace Guru”. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” Dr. Skube can be contacted at www.interpersonaledge.com)