Sticking to Commitments

Dr. John Townsend

October 26, 2015

Commitments are critical to leaders. When your people follow through with commitments, things go well. When they don’t, systems, processes and relationships suffer. And ultimately, the customer suffers as well. Unfortunately, there are cultural forces that minimize the importance of commitments, and can damage a company’s performance. In my new book The Entitlement Cure, I explain this problem and its solutions. If you lead, this will help you.

The world is built on commitments. They are the glue that holds everything together, and keep people and organizations in a state of trust. Here are some examples:
• Treaties: how companies stay in a state of peace with each other. When treaties are kept, they are good neighbors. When they are broken, chaos ensues.
• Vows: the commitments people make when they marry: for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for better or worse.
• Contracts: how organizations structure their deliverable and payments to customers and clients.
• Agreements: how individuals promise to treat each other mutually.

In leadership, contracts and agreements are critical. Simply stated, someone promises to deliver W with X parameters for Y price by Z date. But when an entitlement attitude is present, this is dismissed. The person may think, “I’ve got a lot to do, I can be excused from doing this as promised” or “Why be so anal-retentive? It’s approximately what was promised, if not exactly.” I do a lot of manufacturing consulting, and I can tell you with their requirements for precision, that doesn’t fly!

If you see this attitude in your staff, your leaders, your employees or yourself, you need to change things asap. Take these steps:

• Talk about making inconvenient commitments. Promises are inconvenient for a reason: that’s why they are commitments! To show up on time at a concert by your favorite band isn’t hard. But getting a needed report in, that the team is waiting on, while not fun, is critical.
• Up the ante to “beyond.” Help your organization think about not just keeping commitments, but going above and beyond. Being early. Getting reports in ahead of time. Going the extra mile for your team. Surprising the customer with great deliverables. This makes a difference in the company’s performance.
• Let people know their impact. I mentioned in an earlier article about the value of impact statements. People need to hear how it felt when they cancel a lunch at the last meeting because they were busy, as well as how it felt when they went to some trouble to follow through. We are relational beings, and our impact matters to one another.

Make and keep commitments. Model it, and expect it. Best to your leadership.

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