You Are Your Word

I want you to take a minute and put yourself in the shoes of a contractor, or take this situation and apply it to your own situation.

You need an answer from a customer for a project. When you receive that answer you will be dispatching a crew for the job. It’s an important job that you need to get right. The sooner you can get the information from the customer, the better. The customer has told you that they would have the information to you before the end of the day. So in the mean time you are holding back on scheduling your crews for other jobs and they are on standby waiting for the information from the customer. The end of the day comes, but the answer doesn’t. 

How is this for you?

Now flip the situation around. Have you ever been that customer? Have you ever told someone that you’d do something and didn’t. You got busy, unexpected things came up, you forgot. Maybe you had a valid reason. Maybe you didn’t. 

What did you do?

I recently had a conversation with a couple who were having an issue with someone not performing as they thought they should be. They told me that in one of their discussions one of them had said, “If Jeff was in this situation, I guarantee this person would be performing.”

Why is it that people act different around different people? Why is it that some can get results out of people but others can’t? Why is it that when you tell some people that you’ll do something, there’s no way you wouldn’t do that thing but there are other people  that you can say you’ll do something for but if it doesn’t get done it’s not that big of a deal?
Who you are being, the words you use and the actions you take have an impact on the people around you. I want to talk about your word, as in what you say you are going to do. Being responsible with your word is more than a commitment, it’s a matter of integrity. When you are integral with your word you are creating a relationship that will make the other side act in a certain way. The experience they will have of you will have an impact on them now and in the future.

Too many people are sloppy when giving their word and it creates problems or distrust. I’ve heard Brandon Craig say, “You are your word. You are either a person who can be counted on, or you are a person who cannot be counted on.” Which one are you? Which one do you want to be? Which one can create more powerful relationships?
Without integrity, nothing works. Without integrity, nobody knows what is really going to happen. With integrity you have the possibility of performance. With integrity you can create agreements. With integrity you can create action. With integrity you can create results.

You must be careful and sensitive in giving your word. If you are serious about being a person of integrity, you will think very carefully before giving your word. When people know that you have integrity with your word and you will do exactly what you say, it creates an expectation on their side. It creates a powerful relationship and they will want to show they are integral as well. This is when you will see results and the things that were said would happen, do happen.

However, there will be times that something occurs that is going to prevent you from keeping your word. Does this mean you lose all your integrity? No, you can honor your word and keep your integrity. To honor your word, as soon as you know you won’t be keeping your word, you need to let everyone know who is counting on you that you cannot keep your word and clean up any mess that you’ve caused. When you do this, you can honor your word despite not keeping your word, and you have maintained your integrity.

Lets look at an example. If I give my word to a customer that I’m going to have some information to them by 3:00, I’m going to do everything in my power to have it to them by, or before 3:00. But if there’s a situation outside of my control that is going to prevent this from happening, as soon as I’m aware that I will not be able to keep my commitment I will contact them to let them know and create a new agreement, while also cleaning up any mess that I’ve caused by not keeping my word.

In Michael Jensen’s article, Integrity: Without It Nothing Workshe explains the fear of acknowledging that you will not be keeping your word and why many do not honor their word when they know they won’t be keeping it:

“When maintaining your integrity (i.e., acknowledging that you are not going to keep your word and cleaning up the mess that results) appears to you as a threat to be avoided (like it was when you were a child) rather than simply a challenge to be dealt with, you will find it difficult to maintain your integrity. When not keeping their word, most people choose the apparent short-term gain of hiding that they will not keep their word. Thus out of fear we are blinded to (and therefore mistakenly forfeit) the power and respect that accrues from acknowledging that one will not keep ones word or that one has not kept one’s word.”

Keeping your word is obviously the best case scenario, but as Michael Jensen explains, “by honoring your word you maintain a certain power and respect.” By honoring your word when it cannot be kept, a surprising level of trust emerges. Jensen concluded by saying, “Honoring one’s word is truly an amazing phenomenon… As with the Law of Gravity, the end result is guaranteed.”

Don’t be sloppy with your word. If you do not fully intend on doing something, don’t say you will. Have integrity with your word and if you cannot keep your word, honor it. This isn’t always easy to do and I’m the first to admit that I am far from perfect with this, but as we keep this in mind and focus on it we will get better and better and soon be known as someone who has integrity with their word.

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