December 30, 2015
WHETHER you are the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or the manager of a small department, chances are one of your priorities is to ensure that your team is instilled with a sense of accountability. Are team members keeping their commitments, performing to the best of their abilities and adhering to the mission and values of your organization?
More importantly, are you?
According to an ancient Chinese proverb, a fish rots from its head down. As a leader, if you make and manage your promises poorly or fail to hold others accountable for their promises, the negative effects can quickly spread throughout your organization.
Focusing on promises is essential because they are the foundation of a trusting work environment. Yet all too often, we fail to recognize that the requests and offers and agreements that we make to each other, day in and day out, are just that — promises. And if we don’t see that, then we’re more likely to break those promises, which is why they are worthy of your attention.
Formula of a Promise
Take, for example, a simple request: “Frank, can you get me an inventory report?” “Sure, Steve.” It sounds simple, but what they have created is, in fact, a promise.
Request or Offer + Acceptance = Promise
The problem is, since neither party is likely to view this simple exchange as a promise, there’s a high probability that the promise will be broken. When does Steve need it by? Is Frank clear about precisely what he has agreed to provide? There are too many components to this promise that have not been clarified. And this puts the promise in jeopardy.
Components of a Promise
There are four main components to a promise:
All too often, we fail to explore one or more of these components. We assume there is a shared understanding about what is asked for and when it is due. But more often than not, we miscommunicate, and this leads directly to broken promises and a perceived lack of accountability.
A Culture of Promises
As a leader, keeping promises is critical to maintaining a solid team. If you are lax or lazy in making and managing your promises, others will be too. So how can you keep the fish from rotting down to the tail?
As with any new process or procedure, it takes time and commitment to create a cultural shift in an organization. And learning and embracing the language of promises is certain to create a cultural shift. But demanding accountability is really just demanding that others keep their promises. If you expect others to make and manage their promises, it has to start with you.