It’s about being trustworthy.
Why do any of us say we will do things and then fail to do them?
We overcommit ourselves. We don’t like to disappoint people, so we tell them what we think they want to hear. We feel pressure in the moment and don’t stop to consider how much pressure we’ll feel later. We don’t think through how much time things will actually take.
Up until a few years ago, I canceled or postponed meetings a lot. Then I read Stephen M.R. Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust.” It’s about being trustworthy. I had always thought that I was, but the author explains that when you make appointments and then cancel them, trustworthy you aren’t. When you fail to fulfill commitments that you freely make, trust is not the result.
There are consequences for our personal lives, and there are certainly consequences in the workplace. Keeping commitments is a sign of maturity. Employees who don’t finish assignments, for instance, or finish them late or poorly, or are themselves routinely late, miss meetings and cancel appointments, are an imposition on other team members and a liability to their employers.
Last year I decided I would stop rescheduling my commitments and treat them as just that: commitments. And what I found is that when I committed to do the things I said I’d do, I actually felt much less stressed by them. As I kept more and more commitments, I got more and more confident. And I learned how long things really take.
If you really mean no when you say yes, then say no in the first place. Ask for time to think things over if you’re unsure. Don’t overschedule yourself. You may require a transition period to weed some obligations out; after that, once you say yes to something, stick to the yes. If the commitment seemed like a good idea at the time, it still is — even if the value is found not in the activity itself but in being trustworthy and following through.
(Whitney Johnson is an executive coach, speaker and innovation thinker.)