Trust-Building Behavior #12 – Keep Commitments

Trust-Building Behavior #12 — Keep Commitments

            There is nothing that builds trust like delivering results.  In its simplest fashion, what this behavior refers to is keeping promises.  At the end of the day, people trust you more based on your action than on your words.  There are many quotes and sayings that speak to this fairly self-evident principle, such as “actions speak louder than words”; “well done is better than well said”  (Benjamin Franklin); “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”  (Author Unknown).  The message is stop talking – start delivering.

            How do we improve upon the results delivered? 

Try this:

(1) Assess your current position.

(2) Consider your abilities and your intention.

(3) Follow through.

(4) Be accountable.

1.  Assess Your Current Position

            In coaching, the first step is always to observe ourselves, neutrally.  We cannot make meaningful, intentional change until we fully recognize our current behavior.  So let’s start here.

            Do you keep your promises?  Right now, today, the way you are currently living – do you deliver the results you say you will?  The first thing to do is to find out how you are doing now in this department.  This will allow you to see where you need to improve.  As with any self-observation practice, it is not productive to judge yourself about whether you are keeping or not keeping your promises.  It is also not productive to lie to yourself.  This is a neutral activity.  Try keeping a “Promise Log.”  This will be a record of all the agreements you make, for one week, who they are made to, and whether you are keeping them.  Track promises made to everyone, including yourself.  Create a column to write down the promise; a column stating to whom the promise was made; and a column to specify if you “kept” or “didn’t keep” that promise.  Again this should be done without assessing whether it is good or bad that you are keeping or not keeping your promises.  Don’t worry about what you are seeing until the week of self-observation ends.

            At the end of one week, go back and again, neutrally review your results.  Be a scientist.  Or a detective.  Be curious.  You are looking simply for patterns of behavior.  Where are you likely to break agreements?  Where do you keep them?  To whom do you break agreements?  To specific persons?  To yourself?  Are there certain types of agreements you tend to break.  Just look at what is so.

2.  Consider Your Abilities and Your Intention

            When you truly begin to understand the importance of keeping your promises, you will begin to ask yourself, “Can I keep this promise?” and “Will I keep this promise?” before you make the promise.  Approach every agreement as having the potential to build or break trust with the other person, and agree (or do not agree) from that place.  Then you will also begin to notice why you make promises.  Often we promise without thinking, because we want to make the other person happy or to get them off our backs, or because we think we “should.”

            When you make a promise, ask yourself, “Can I keep this promise?”  Surprisingly, many people make promises without truly thinking about this.  When promises become important to you and you recognize them as keeping or eroding trust with others, it is useful to ask at the time of making the promise – “Is this true?”  “Can I do this?”  “Do I have the time?”  “What might get in my way?”  Consider your intention – ask yourself, “Am I really going to do this?”  Be real and honest with yourself.

3.  Follow Through

            Do what you say you will.  Once you have asked yourself, “Can I make this promise?” and “Will I really do this?” and you make the promise, treat it as your word, your integrity.  Teach people they can count on you no matter what.  Do not allow circumstances to get in your way.  Be serious about it.

  • Write it down
  • Calendar or schedule it
  • Create a reminder for yourself
  • Do it

4.  Be accountable

            If you follow the suggestions in this blog you will be keeping your agreements with a higher percentage of frequency.  You will change how you view promises and they will be more meaningful to you as a way to develop trusting and strong relationships with others.  And yet you will still sometimes break your agreements.  Trust can be maintained if breaking your agreements is not an ongoing pattern of behavior and if you are accountable when you do break agreements.  This means you must “own up to” what you did.  Admit the mistake.  Do what you must to fix it and do not blame people and circumstances for breaking your agreements.

With Yourself:  Make commitments to yourself carefully, and treat them with the same respect you feel you should treat commitments to others.  Use all the foregoing tools with yourself and build trust with yourself.  Ask will I really do this?  Be honest before you promise and if you do promise, follow through.  If you break an agreement with yourself, acknowledge it, be accountable.  No beating yourself up.  Learn.  Change your behavior.  Move on.

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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