I’ve been told that I’m a strange kind of consultant and businessman. The reason some people say that is because I have a certain level of decorum that I expect people I’m going to work with to adhere to. It’s not anything hard like watching their language, or dressing a certain way. As a matter of fact, this one thing should be such a minor thing that I can’t figure out why people can’t do it.

shocking truth
Truth?

That one thing? Following through on what you tell someone you’re going to do. That’s it; expecting people to do what they say they were going to do. How hard is that?

I know that sometimes it’s hard to do. If you expected a project to finish in 4 weeks and suddenly all your information has disappeared, or you were hit by a tornado, you’re not going to be able to finish a project. I get that.

I also get that sometimes everything isn’t in your control. I live in central New York, and we have this strangely consistent weather pattern during the winter. With little notice we can get upwards of 3 to 6 inches of snow in a heartbeat; happens all the time. Our roads get cleared pretty fast because we’re used to that, but getting out of driveways, small neighborhoods and what we call those snowbelt areas (I live in one)… nothing we can do about all of it.

But there are things that can easily be controlled.

If you tell me you’re going to call me tomorrow, it doesn’t mean I don’t hear from you for two weeks. It doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be chasing you down. When problems arise, as a professional you’re expected to get in touch with whomever and let them know what’s going on. Isn’t that a small thing? We have these things called phones, smart or otherwise, that allows us to connect with each other pretty quickly. Or email; that’s a marvelously easy thing to use.

A day late with the finish of a project; irksome but it happens. Something happened with your child or your car stalled or any number of emergencies come up; I get it. Even if you have to go out of town suddenly, there’s still that phone or email thing you can do to notify someone who’s waiting for or expecting something from you.

Sometimes my wife and I think we live in a black hole zone. Contractors set dates with us and never show up. Every once in a while they’ll call and apologize, but it’s never a few hours later or even a day; it’s sometimes a week later if it happens at all.

I’m now the main caregiver for my mother, and we’ve contracted for a few ladies to come by the house to wash Mom because they’re professionals at it. We’ve had to replace a few of them because they were no-shows and no call multiple times; can’t have that, because it means I have to do it, which neither Mom or I are happy about. Really, how hard is it to follow up on a commitment in today’s connected world?

The way my mind sees things, if I can’t trust you on the small stuff, especially when you’ve told me what you were going to do, then I can’t trust you on the big stuff, such as when I’m going to get paid, when you’re going to give me what I need to work on the project, etc. I don’t think that’s harsh at all; if we’re all professionals, we stick to what we say we’re going to do the best way we can.

This is a major leadership lesson that I see so many leaders fail at. They tell their employees one thing and then either do something else or don’t do anything. Employees wait for information they need to do their job, or supervisors tell them “I’ll find out and get back to you”. It doesn’t happen and a month later the issue still hasn’t been solved; why would you expect your employees to trust you, let alone respect you?

What happens then? Employees stop asking questions, things start going bad, and leaders wonder why things are falling apart. Then, when they’re called on it, they blame the employees for not telling them things, as if they’ve earned absolution for every lie they’ve told over time. Make no mistake, it’s a lie.

It’s a lie because there was no real intention to follow through. Meaning well doesn’t mean good intentions. Not meaning well is even worse. It shows you don’t care for anyone except yourself. That works well if the only person you’re responsible for is yourself. If you’re in a leadership position, or have the need to work with others… bad policy.

Here’s 3 questions to consider. Do you like when it happens to you? Is this something you know you can overcome if it’s something you do? If it’s someone else do you have the guts to stand up for yourself?

And am I really that strange after all?
 

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