How to Keep Your Commitments, Part 2
Even in our technologically advanced world, an individual’s reputation is worth its weight in smartphones. In part 2 of this series, Get-It-Done Guy has 4 more tips to keep your commitments, maintain (and improve) your reputation, and get ahead in life.
My mother used to tell me “Stever, I think you should be committed.” So in an effort to please her, I spent a lot of time learning about commitment. In last week’s episode, I promised to share 9 tips about keeping commitments. There was only time for 5, however, so to keep my commitment, today we’ll cover the other 4.
In part 1 of this series, we reviewed the steps of starting a commitment and setting up tracking for it. We also covered how to kick your motivation in high gear without the use of artificial sweeteners or electric cattle prods. So far, so good.
Once you’ve started fulfilling a commitment, you need to keep fulfilling it. That’s the whole point. People need to know they can count on you over time, which means that you’ll be able to keep going without them having to manage you. Remember that electric cattle prod? You so don’t want them to have to go there.
So here are 4 more tips on keeping your commitments:
Tip #6: Review Commitments Often
This is the hardest tip in the entire series. The most important part of keeping commitments is reminding yourself you have them. It’s easy to get distracted and pulled into more important things, like pictures of kittens, celebrity gossip, or Facebook updates. But as Kare Christian Anderson points out in a superb article on the Harvard Business Review website, what you pay attention to is what gets handled.
Set up a system that keeps your commitments front-and-center. Check out my episode on how to Manage Life by Using a Personal Dashboard and keep your commitments logged in your personal dashboard, with the who, when, and what of the commitment specified.
If you don’t keep a personal dashboard, keep your commitments list where you see it often and can review it regularly. Sometimes I write my commitments on a sticky pad and put it in my task list. Or I’ll use a small whiteboard I keep in my office.
Tip #7: Confront Missed Commitments Early
With your handy-dandy commitments list, hopefully you’ll be thinking about them enough to make sure you’re delivering on your promises. But sometimes despite our best efforts, we realize that we’re not going to make it. We promised our friend we’d bake them an Oreo ice cream cake, but no matter how hard we try, it’s taking longer than expected to figure out how to bake ice cream at 450 degrees for 45 minutes.
When you realize you won’t be able to deliver a commitment on time, face it. As a rule, when you catch things early, it’s easier to fix them. If you can’t find a way to catch up, talk to the people depending on you (you took the time to identify them up front, remember?). Explain the situation and get everyone committed to figuring out what to do.
Can this be embarrassing? Yes. Can this hurt your reputation? Yes. But what’s the alternative? Waiting until an hour before the deadline then not delivering? Letting people down is bad, but catching it early and leading the recovery effort at least puts you in the position of problem solver, even if it was your problem to begin with.
If you must drop a commitment, spend some time reviewing what happened so you can make sure you do a better job next time. The problem may have been that you underestimated how much time you’d need, or you didn’t gather the right resources. Learn from your experience so it doesn’t happen again.
Tip #8: Get Agreement on Completion
Of course, in the land of milk and honey where I live, we always meet our commitments. We committed to finishing the study on the recreation habits of flightless waterfowl. And sure enough, we wrote the darned thing and it’s happily sitting on our computer, all done. Satisfied with a job well done, we promptly reward ourselves with a three day marathon watching every episode of Glee back-to-back.
When we recover from our Gleeful reward, we have a note from our collaborators saying they need chapter 7 rewritten from scratch to account for the British Petroleum oil spill. Now we’re three days behind.
That’s because, unless a commitment is to ourselves, we don’t get to decide when it’s done. The people we committed to get a vote, too. When you’ve met a commitment, make it explicit and get agreement.
“Here’s the 250-page report on penguin volleyball that I said I’d write, on time, as promised. Please look it over and let me know if it fulfills the promise.” If you want the advanced commitment practice, you can even secretly reserve some time in your schedule so if your collaborators don’t think you met the commitment, you have some slack you can use to make final tweaks.
Tip #9: Follow Up
Lastly, after you’ve fulfilled your commitment and they agree, jot a note to yourself in your calendar to follow up. This is where you turn your awesome successful commitment mastery into a positive reputation. Just call them at some point and ask how it’s going. Then double check to make sure they continue to think of you as someone who kept your end of the bargain. Say something like, “I’m glad I could come through for you. Is everything going well?” Since they agreed earlier that your work was good enough—and they never lie, of course—they’ll happily remember what a great job you did.
Every good commitment requires follow-through. Creating a commitments list, reviewing it often, sounding the alarm if things slip, and making sure everyone agrees when you meet your commitments will help you build a rock solid reputation. Someday, you’ll just be known as “the one person around here who really keeps a commitment.” And that, of course, is when you can start slacking off. Just kidding.
This is Stever Robbins. I mentor high-potential leaders in developing the ability to make and keep the kind of commitments that develop strong leadership. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
- Harvard Business Review article on paying attention
- Stever's whiteboard and to-do list commitment tracking
Commitment image from Shutterstock