Archives for September 14, 2015

Keeping Promises & Sustaining Trust

As a leader, you make many promises. Are you known for keeping your word or making empty promises? As a seller you may promise high-quality products or experiences to customers. As a manager you may offer opportunities to your employees and results to executives. Yes, the pressure of deadlines can get to you and derail your goals, but don’t experience thecommitment drift where crucial promises are forgotten, or broken. This drift demolishes trust from those around you, and undermines those important relationships. As priorities change, or timelines get moved forward, leaders must balance the promises previously made, adjusting them to accommodate one another.

To avoid being known as the leader who can’t keep promises follow these 7 steps:

  • Make fewer, better commitments.
    • Many times leaders make promises that miss the mark for stakeholders, losing credibility.  When you take the time to understand your stakeholders’ needs, you make more meaningful commitments.
  • Track your primary commitment.
    • The volume of commitments leaders are asked to make can result in promises they can’t keep, or forgetting promises they’ve made, as newer ones grab their attention. Tracking your promises doesn’t have to be time consuming; many software tools are available to make and update your lists.
  • Ask for others to commit.
    • Leaders are often shocked by the lack of execution after major initiatives have been launched. Yet these same leaders have not articulated exactly what commitments they’re asking others to make. Clearly state what you’re asking of others, with your end goal in mind.
  • Connect the dots between departments.
    • When leaders are solely focused on what they need to do, they focus less on connecting the dots between other groups. These important connections could have the greatest overall impact on company results. Companies can improve immensely by ensuring that teams understand how they can help each other, by motivating them to focus on the firm’s goals.
  • Focus on the process.
    • Leaders frequently rely on the heroic efforts of committed employees as a substitute for effective processes, ultimately wearing out their employees’ good will. When companies invest in developing repeatable processes, they make it easy for employees to deliver on promises and free up their creativity for the next big idea.
  • Know what was promised in your role in the past.
    • If new leaders jump into action without knowing what was promised in the past, they can violate prior commitments, undermine trust, and increase resistance. Ask, “What promises have been made?” when you start a new role to ensure the important ones are kept—or are adjusted with respect and consideration.
  • Continually check for contradictions.
    • Your consistency—or lack thereof—lets people know whether you can be trusted. When employees find leaders speaking out of both sides of their mouth, they assume the worst. Yet this kind of contradiction happens all too easily. Make sure you are acting with integrity to avoid contradictions that ruin trust.