Back to Work We Go & Leadership Essential #3: Leaders Keep Commitments


Good morning – first Thursday after Labor Day! Time to bring your summertime shorts, t-shirt, flip-flop-wearing-self back to work!
This morning, two thoughts – one marking the change of season; the other, a third installment in my Leadership Essentials series – something that frustrates your followers so much when you don’t do it!
First, here in the United States, this is a transition week. Labor Day is that marker where we say to ourselves, “Okay, time to get back to work!” Not that we slacked all summer, but the intensity level just seems to naturally crank up, again, come September.
So, to lead at your best, make a little time in the next 48 hours to pause, turn off autopilot and re-commit to leading this last third of 2018 with your best.
Contemplate at least one of these questions:

  • What difference do I make as a leader in my organization?
  • How do I inspire others to do and be their best?
  • What kind of leadership legacy am I writing in the lives of others each day?
  • What is one way I want to lead differently as I go into the Fall?

Now for Leadership Essential #3: Leaders Keep Commitments (if you missed Essential #2, click here).
I had a coaching call with the President of a company last week. He was struggling with how to have a conversation with his boss, the CEO. Finally, it came out –
“Here’s the thing. He doesn’t keep his commitments. He doesn’t do what he says he will do. . . . And it really affects my trust in him.”
I hear this too much about leaders in senior roles. And generally, they are clueless about the negative impact their unreliability has on those around them.
Examples of leaders not keeping commitments range from the simple . . .

“She’s always late for meetings.”

. . . to the more dangerous . . .

“His decisions are always as final as the last person who was in his office.” (said about a CEO)

Of course, being reliable is just plain courteous. But the bigger damage done by unreliable leaders is a deterioration of trust. Eventually, the leader’s integrity takes a hit.
The best leaders can be counted on to keep their commitments. Their “Yes” means yes, and their “No” means no. When they keep their word, they prove themselves reliable. In being reliable, they engender trust from those they lead. When they cultivate high trust with their followers, well . . . how can I list all the good things that come from that?!
Most of the time, “leaders” who fail to keep their commitments don’t comprehend fully how it affects those they lead. I can assure you that a lot of time and energy gets wasted by those who have to follow unreliable leaders.
Now, leaders occasionally need to change course when they receive new information. This is “leadership agility,” and it is certainly appropriate at times. But the key in such situations is communication: the leader must communicate the change to people who are relying on the original decision.
Three keys on commitments:

  1. Make fewer commitments. This is particularly important for people-pleasing leaders who say “yes” to too many things, without considering what it will take to fulfill each “yes.” Be clear about your most important commitments, so you can say “no” more often.
  2. Keep the commitments you make. If you say you will do something, do it! If there will be a significant delay from when you said you would do something, inform people who should know. If you have to deviate from a plan you committed to, inform others who are affected.
  3. Repair broken commitments. Be quick to genuinely apologize for not coming through. Even though you failed to keep a commitment, you can keep your integrity intact by owning it, without excuses.

Be a leader. Keep your commitments.
Finally, I try to write these posts as if we were walking and having a conversation together. Feel free to converse back! I always appreciate hearing from you.
Lead well.