As a leader, be precise on how you manage your promises.
Saying yes to a request is a promise.
For the serial over-committers out there, it might make sense to go on a ‘yes diet’, where for two weeks you can’t say yes to anything on the spot. You can only commit to commit. Then go away and think about it, giving your considered answer later.
No is a declined request, but it is also a promise: “Not now, not ever.”
“I have to check.” That sounds like, “I can’t even tell you if I can do that. I have to go back and look at my calendar or I have to check with other people. I will get back to you by such and such a date.” (that’s a promise too)
Counteroffer. “I can’t do that but I can do this.” or “I can’t do it by this date but I can do it by that date.” (you just made a promise)
Renegotiate. This is when you make a promise. Then stuff happens (remember that VUCA world stuff?), and you realize that you can’t deliver. In that case, it’s your responsibility to let people know with enough time that they have an alternative. Hoping that something will change and that you’ll still be able to pull it off and let time slip away without telling people you are not going to deliver… well, that’s not being reliable. (remember, you made a promise)
Recognize that as a leader you are always broadcasting messages through multiple channels:
- What you say
- Your decisions and actions
- What you reward and tolerate
If you aren’t broadcasting the same messages on all three channels, you will not be seen as reliable or trustworthy.