Three Ways to Ensure You Keep Your Promises

“Sure, I’ll have that to you tomorrow morning!"

How many times have you been promised something only to be disappointed hours (or days) later when that promise was broken?

Though there may be many reasons why a person or team misses their commitment - some of those even legitimate reasons - you end up on the short end of the stick. If they'd promised to deliver a key element in a project you’re working on and they simply don’t deliver, your timeline is blown.

And your commitment, your promise, is at risk of being broken, too. In addition, your reputation as a consistent contributor might well be at risk.

It’s not an enjoyable experience. Though we all react differently to such frustrations, my experiences may be similar to yours.

The “Roger Folder"

Years ago I worked with a gentleman named Roger. Though we were in different departments, we interacted regularly and depended on each other frequently.

Roger was a great guy. He was kind, fun, and caring. He just couldn’t - for the life of him - keep promises.

He over-promised and under-delivered regularly. It was frustrating when one promise was broken. To have Roger break many promises was infuriating.

Yet Roger was so nice, I didn’t want to come on strong. So, I tried to casually mention those promises. He’d apologize. He was genuinely sorry for the difficulty he caused. He'd say he’d get right on it.

But he didn’t get right on it. It got lost in the details of his work demands - or something.

I actually didn’t care why Roger missed so many commitments. I had to create an approach that let me know, well in advance, if Roger would meet his commitments or not.

Being one of the "detail-oriented" personality types, I created a system to manage Roger’s commitments to me in the form of a “Roger Folder.” I sought very explicit agreements so there was no question what I needed from Roger and when I needed it. I’d carefully note the day and time of when I met with Roger and what our agreements were. I’d copy my list of agreements and give it to Roger - and assured him I’d be following up on each of these agreements.

Every day, my to-do list had an entry that read, “Roger Folder."

My “Roger Folder” was thick. I sought out Roger frequently to ensure we were both on track with our commitments that week.

This approach was thorough and exhausting to manage. But, it worked. Roger didn’t always have a smile on his face when he saw me coming to find him, with my “Roger Folder” in hand.

When my role changed and my dependency on Roger was reduced, I was a happier camper.

You may have found different ways to manage others’ commitments to you and your own commitments to others. Here are three takeaways from my Roger experiences that might help you keep your promises.

Explicit Agreements - Be specific in what you need and when. Be equally specific when you make commitments to others. Those parameters may change over the course of a project. That’s fine - just keep up-to-date on the current commitments.

Disciplined Tracking - Don’t be casual about your commitments. In our fast paced, multi-tasking world, we lose track of many things! Find a system that works and follow it religiously. I’m a huge fan of Evernote (I’m writing this post in Evernote right now) and Nozbe to track to-do’s, commitments, and follow up required (on my part and others’).

Frequent Communication - Don’t be a stranger to those with whom you share commitments (theirs or yours, at work or with friends or at home). Check in meetings can be short and sweet - five minutes in length - to ensure both parties are on track with their promised delivery. If you learn of a curve ball coming your way, fully inform all stakeholders of the potential delay and what you’re doing to alleviate it. And, expect the same from those who have commitments to you.