I am a big fan of doing what I said I would do. I consider that to be a sign of trustworthiness and reliability. Interestingly, if you fail to meet your commitment once it is not that big of a deal, but a trend means people discount your word completely.
Always Keep Your Commitments
I think if we start with the attitude of always keeping all the commitments we make, we will all be better off. The keys to being successful at that include
- Consider Carefully – Before you make any commitment, regardless of how big or small, truly consider whether you can pull it off. Given everything you know right now, can you really do that? Can you do it well and on time? It is great to take risks or have “stretch goals” and please make them at least a little realistic.
- Accept Inconvenience – When we agreed to this, it might have sounded easy. Now that you are neck deep in it..not so much. “This is such a mess, I didn’t realize how much I would have to clean up before I could do my work.” The other day, I agreed to do a small house project that would involve cutting some baseboard material, painting it and installing it. No problem – should take an hour, tops! As it turns out that one hour estimate was poorly informed. When I went to the garage to start, I realized I had not cleaned up my last project (or seven). As a result, the first hour of this one hour project was spent organizing the work bench so I could get to the saw. The effect is the job did not get done in an hour, so I was not able to do the next thing I really wanted to do. However, rather than weaken my word, I kept at it and finished, even though it was inconvenient for me.
Except When You Should Renege
If keeping all our commitments is a starting point in our thinking, that is great. However, it is not reasonable all the time. So, when should you bail out?
- The World Changed – In 2006, Seth Godin did a TED Talk called This is Broken. I have watched it several times and I like it more and more each time. The point he makes that is relevant here today is some things are broken because the world changed. My friend recently (casually) agreed to do some balloon work for me in May. He is very talented and a great fit for the job, and he was more than happy to do it. Last week, he got a new job that is a 10-hour drive away. His world changed, and I think it is OK for him to bail on my job.
- Your Health is at Risk – Although I believe accepting inconvenience is a good idea, there are limits. When you have been working tons of hours and the kids are all sick and the dishwasher is broken and you have had a raging headache for three days…you might need a break. With as much warning as possible, you should cancel your commitments and take care of yourself first. If you are not healthy, you are useless. Remember, this includes mental and emotional health. If you ignore your emotional health on a regular basis, I encourage you to watch this TED Talk with Guy Winch.
- You Should have Said No – Back to that Careful Consideration thing. When you immediately have buyer’s remorse over an agreement, bail out quickly. You go to lunch with a friend and they ask a favor. Through guilt, care, or habit you agree. Moments later you get in the car and ask yourself, “Why did I agree to that, I can’t do that.” Call your friend quickly and renege. Sure, that might be a tough conversation, but it is better to rip off that band-aid quickly instead of letting the decision fester.
Your Next Move
Are you overcommitted?
If so, it is time to change your habits about committing in the first place, then go back and evaluate what agreements you can get out of. In my experience, it took about six months before my calendar was markedly different…and it was worth it.
Last week, I wrote about how a project with a big vision brings people out of the woodwork to help, and that is wonderful. However, there is a downside to having a big vision people want to rally around. Here is what to watch out for.
The Wrong People
When you declare to the world you are going to set off on an amazing adventure, lots of people will want to join, eventually. It often starts with derision and questioning, but eventually people want to join in. That can be very confirming and relieving to the leader, if they are the right people. Here are three people to send packing.
- Hangers On. People who want to be involved so they can look cool and feel included. Those things are not bad in their own right, but can represent dead weight if that is the only reason they are there. If you have a mission to accomplish, you need people to carry their own weight.
- Rabbit Holes. People who sign on to support your vision, then “suggest” we also include other things in the adventure. One church I worked with was really investing in the homeless in their town. People signed on to help those folks get food, clothing, bibles, and so on. Then, a late-comer to the project distracted the whole ministry down their rabbit hole of resources for orphans in another country. Here is the challenge: that ministry idea is great, and needed. However, it is not our vision, so it is a distraction. As a result, both ministries attempted to function in parallel for a while, but neither were very successful.
- Credit Hounds. Everyone deserves credit and accolades for the work they do and the help they provide. For many those accolades are fuel to keep them fighting the good fight – so hand them out early and often. However, when you find people fighting for credit (arguing who “really” did that work, elbowing into the camera shot on TV, etc.) they have lost the desire for the mission and are now fighting for themselves. That is destructive to the group, and usually diminishes the actual work they are getting done.
The Media Hype
When big things happen in our world, the media often gets involved. That can be very helpful if it generates some awareness, excitement, and even funding for the adventure. However, a few things the media can bring that are less helpful…
- Wrong Information. Media professionals used to fact-check anything reported. In these days of quick reporting, the accuracy of reporting has gone downhill. For example, in this homeless ministry. The church visited downtown and fed about 100 people each week, and had done it reliably for about three months. The reporter was excited on the news, “…they feed over 1000 each week”. Umm, not so much but thanks for trying. Help them out with a fact sheet they can read from on the news.
- Shooting Star. Media attention is fun, but fleeting. Often times, the media is most interested right before or after a “big event”, not the long haul it takes to make a vision happen. For example, in that world record, the media was very excited around the launch, then pretty quiet for the flight, then had a huge amount of activity right after the landing. That is all great stuff. However, for the people doing the work, it is dangerous to get caught up in that media and forget there is still work to do. After the cameras left, it was still necessary to recovery the equipment, ship it home, file the paperwork for the record, get it approved, and so on. The media attention fades, your attention should not.
Your Next Move
If you are working on a big vision project, evaluate who you have on board. If you have any of the wrong people, clean house a little and your speed and accomplishment will likely improve. Feel free to let the media be involved, but don’t let them distract you from your vision.
By the Way – the balloon flight was a HUGE success. Two world records, safe landing, and a bunch of great memories for the whole team!