When asked about the attributes of people who make the best coworkers, people invariably bring up “commitments” as being important. Think about those people you love to work with. I bet they are reliable, competent, accountable, and thorough. They do what they say they will do, by the deadline.
What can we do to be even better at meeting our own commitments? I know it sounds simple, but how often do you accept a request without asking, “By when do you need it?” It’s okay to make a counter offer or negotiate the request so you can be reliable. I sometimes feel awkward giving a deadline, but when I don’t get what I need when I need it, I am frustrated. I have only myself to blame.
Isn’t it great when someone gives you the reason they need something? If someone asks you to do something for them and they say it’s needed for a client meeting at such and such time, you understand the context and urgency. If you assume they just want it to review when they have time, you are likely to respond differently. Giving context and explaining why you need something can help.
Sometimes, we just can’t deliver. It’s critical to let people know EARLY if you cannot meet the deadline of an agreed upon commitment. As soon as you know you are not going to be able to meet a deadline, raise the flag or renegotiate. If you don’t, the damage can escalate. Ask what you can do to make up for being late. When people know you are sincere in wanting to do the right thing and are willing to be accountable, they will trust you.
Finally, only promise what you are confident you are able to produce. Seems simple enough but how many times do we say yes to something we really don’t understand? We want to be helpful and make people happy in the moment, but if we miss the mark, damage is done. Ask questions! Be sure you understand what, specifically, they want before you even get started. Promises should be made to others based on your existing promises. Be realistic with completion dates. Take into consideration what you already have on your plate.
We all want to work with people who meet their commitments. Each one of us has an opportunity every day to excel in this area or to flounder. Do what it takes to make good on your promises. Because of that, your team will love to work with you.
P.S. I am leading a public workshop series through the Larimer County Workforce Center the first three Friday mornings of December called “Becoming a Highly Successful Manager”. Join me to learn about managing commitments and much more. To register, go to http://larimerworkforce.org/workshops/business-workshops-and-roundtables/.