I just got off the phone with a colleague. The purpose of her call: to be reassured that it would be OK to blow off a conference call that involves five very busy people around the globe. It was set up more than a month ago, and it was the first slot when we were all available. Her reason: She had an unexpected invitation to attend a meeting that would be more profitable — to her.
Her words: “I’m really committed to honoring this phone call, but …” But there was something she’d rather do instead. Nevertheless, she absolutely, positively wanted to go on record as to being committed to honoring the phone call. She always does.
I’m certainly no one to be holier-than-thou about keeping commitments. I’m really committed, for instance, to reducing spending and losing weight. That doesn’t mean that I’ve done either successfully. But this is business. And I’m reminded of the time when the chairman of a publicly traded company said to me, “I have trouble with the word accountability.” Gee, that’s too bad, seeing as how he has thousands of shareholders who are counting on him to be accountable.
I don’t want to come off as a scold here. But let’s consider the fact that our entrepreneurial vitality turns on two critical points: our capacity for innovation and our ability to deliver on that innovation. Just wanting to isn’t enough. The reputation of wanting to will get you at least a little bit closer to your objectives, but it will never get you all the way there.
If you’re on the fence about sticking to your commitments, you will eventually pay a serious price for the way you impose flexibility on your colleagues. The employees at the chairman’s company are demoralized because they have seen more than one great initiative atrophy because there is no expectation of follow-through. As far as my colleague is concerned, her team is learning to function very well without her — which is better, I suppose, than the more passive-aggressive tactic of not showing up themselves.
When you make a commitment, realize that people are planning around that commitment. When you start building a track record as a no-show, despite your claims about how much you care, people will find a way to get along without you.
My advice: Commit to those things that you will really commit yourself to committing to — and only work with those who feel the same way you do.
Image credit, webphotographeer, via iStock