If you are like most people, you don’t intentionally lie or take actions that are deliberately deceptive. However, some people say they are going to do something and they never do. Here is some practical advice so you can keep your word and earn a reputation for always following through on what you say you will do.
1. Don’t promise if you can’t deliver. Be careful about what you promise. When writing an email or talking to someone, be careful about what you commit to do. For example, instead of committing to attend an event, say you will consider attending. If you are asked to deliver something for a project by a deadline, make it clear if you will reasonably be able to do that and make it known immediately if you are not going to meet the deadline.
2. Follow up when someone gives you a business card. One of the most common exchanges at receptions is when people forget or run out of their cards but they promise to follow up with you. They almost never do. Luckily we have the internet, LinkedIn, Google, etc. so we can usually find their email if they give their name and place of employment or other biographical information. If you say you will email someone, email that person!
3. Don’t make arbitrary deadlines. Take some time to consider a reasonable deadline for what you promise. If you fail to meet your self-imposed deadline, you may earn a reputation of tardiness. It is preferable to promise work at a later time and deliver it early.
4. Keep track of what you promise. When you tell someone you will send them results of a survey or of a program they sponsored, be sure you do that. It is easy to forget a product promised more than a few days in the future. Be sure to note what you promise in your calendar and follow up accordingly. The recipient will probably be pleasantly surprised since most people do not follow up on long-term promises.
Work hard to earn a reputation that you keep your word. It is one of the most important attributes for future employers to know that you keep your word and have integrity that will do the firm well.
What is your advice on this topic? Have you met people with a reputation of keeping their word or with the opposite? How did you best interact with those people?
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.