Keep Your Promises

iStock_000004153022XSmallIn honor of summer, I’m going to keep this week’s series of blogs bite-sized so you can get back to your beach and margaritas lickity split.  This week I’ll review a few behaviors that are key to success as a project leader.

Key success behavior #1:  Keep your promises.  Sorry if this seems trivial.  I bring it up because I frequently encounter people who can’t manage to follow this simple advice.  One of your sources of power as a project leader is your word.  People are keenly aware of when we do not keep our word.  If you promise to do something, do it.  Become known as the kind of person who’s word is their bond.  Be known as a reliable person.  Breaking a promise, even a small one, undermines your credibility.  In my opinion this kind of erosion of your cred is never repaired.  People remember broken promises forever.  You might build up a huge string of promises that you keep afterward, but your broken promise will remain forever burned into memory.

Oh, and don’t think I’m talking about delivering to unrealistic schedules or completing some ridiculous deliverable that everyone knew was never going to happen.  I’m talking about promises you make as an individual, like promising to call someone back within 24 hours, or promising to review a document you received on email and give your feedback by the end of the week.  And this also applies to small things, like keeping a lunch date, ending a meeting on time so your colleagues can get to their next meeting, or showing up at a party one of your people is holding when you’ve RSVP’d.

Every promise you break, however minuscule, sends a message about the kind of person you are to the people around you.  What’s worse, breaking your promises sets up a destructive cycle within your own mind, where you somehow convince yourself that it was a small promise, or not a promise at all, and that it really doesn’t matter.  That’s the beginning of an insidious journey to complete loss of your integrity, a leader’s most precious asset.

Make promises with care, and keep them as if your reputation depends on it, which it most certainly does.

Now I’ll admit it – I have broken many promises.  (How do you think I learn this stuff??!!  By doing everything wrong at first, of course!)  Write me your experiences with broken promises, yours and others, and the impact, and maybe I’ll confess some of my past blunders.


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2 thoughts on “Keep Your Promises”

  1. User Avatar

    Yup! We’re all human. It happens. The behavior that makes me froth at the mouth with frustration is when someone breaks a promise and then makes excuses about it. At the very least we need to say “My bad! Sorry!” and get back on the horse to ride another couple of kilometers in the direction of doing the right thing.

  2. User Avatar

    A few months ago I broke one of my own tenants.

    I didn’t show for a one-on-one with one of my project managers. One-on-ones with my direct reports have been something I take very seriously. I want them to know I am here to support them 100%.

    Normally, I will stand up in a meeting that has run over time and let everyone I have to go because I have an important meeting with one of my staff.

    Why didn’t I do the same in this instance? I’m not exactly sure. We all slip from time to time, but that’s no excuse.

    Striving to never miss one again,

    Josh Nankivel

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