Promises vs. Reality

488914639Promises are just words, but delivering on them matters — and failing to do so can be costlier than you think.

In the real world, making good on your word is often easier said than done. For example, President Trump has already found it difficult to deliver on some of his key campaign promises (repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and closing our borders to people from middle-eastern countries). The same may well hold true for some of his other promises as well (reworking the tax code, building the wall, etc.). As a result, his approval rating has suffered, although the administration is still young and work-arounds may yet be found.

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The concept also applies to businesses and even on an individual level in doing one’s own job. Let’s look at two recent cases in point: I have flown well over a million miles with United as well as Delta Airlines, with generally good experiences. Yet last weekend, United inflicted bodily injuries on a passenger, dragging him off a flight so that one of its employees could take his seat on a full flight. So much for “Flying the Friendly Skies.” United’s CEO apologized only after a huge social media backlash caused its stock to plummet the next day. As for Delta, one of its legendary computer glitches stranded thousands of customers after its system went down. This from a company whose slogan is “The World’s Most Trusted Airline.”

While these are extreme examples of promises not kept, even a slight slip in comparison can be costly to your firm. So what promises and commitments do you make to those companies you do business with or the people you work with? Do you tell your customers their order will delivered as promised, even if that is far from certain? Do you tell your boss that a huge project will be completed on time to make yourself look good for the moment, when you are in fact well behind schedule? Do you tell your subordinate that the raise you promised has not even been requested yet? Do you tell the candidate a job placement is a sure thing, when you haven’t even heard from the hiring manager?

If any of these things sound familiar, it might be time to take a close look at what you are saying and whether your word can be counted upon.

But it goes further than that. If an unforeseen event does happen that derails a project or otherwise prevents you from keeping your promise, how do you handle it? Will you be the one to bury your head in the sand after a debacle, or the one who tells the truth to minimize further damage to your or your company’s reputation? Do you tell the truth to the people who rely on you, even if the news is not what they want to hear?

So, if not easy, it is still simple: Think it through before you make promises that you can’t keep. And when something does go awry, be forthcoming. The facts will eventually come out, and once lost, your credibility is hard to recover.

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Michael Neidle

Michael Neidle
Michael Neidle is president and CEO of Optimal Management, an advisor to staffing firm owners and managers.

Michael Neidle

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