As professionals, particularly as sales professionals, we are only as good as the commitments we meet. We’re always making commitments–to our customers, our colleagues, our managers, ourselves. But how many do we meet?
We tend to make a lot of commitments, it’s easy to do—”I’ll do this,” “I’ll do that,” “I’ll get back to you with these…..” Commitments are meaningless unless we deliver on them–they become meaningless words, reducing our credibility and our trustworthiness.
We also tend to waste a lot of time, recovering from the commitments we didn’t fulfill. Others come back to us, “You said you’d do this…..” or, “Where’s this, you committed to it last week…..” So more and more stuff piles up. The commitments we made but didn’t keep, the commitments we are making, the actions that we have to take to recover from the commitments we didn’t keep. It becomes overwhelming.
So how do we start meeting our commitments? Let’s start simple:
- Make fewer of them! We tend to volunteer to do something too easily. Sometimes, it’s to fill a gap in the conversation or to move it along. Sometimes, it’s a well intended attempt to be responsive–to our customers, our managers, or someone else. Don’t make a commitment unless you are absolutely committed to fulfilling it.
- Write down the commitments you make. Write the commitment, who you made it to, and when you committed to deliver on it. Too often, we fail to meet our commitments because we forget—but the person we have made them to doesn’t. They just remember we failed to make a commitment.
- There is a structure to a commitment–make sure you have structured and defined the commitment well. Who are you committing to? What are you committing–specifically? When are you committing to deliver? Write it down in a sentence: I’ve committed to get the business case on this proposal to Mary by this date. This adds discipline and clarity to what you are trying to achieve.
- Now that you are writing them down, keep a scorecard. What percent of the commitments did you make? What and why did you fail on the others.
- While it may seem backwards, focus on meeting the commitments you make to yourself. The commitments we make to ourselves are the commitments we are most vested in–so they are probably the ones that are easiest to keep. If you don’t keep the commitments you make to yourself, then you will never be able to meet the commitments you make to others.
- After you are starting to make the commitments you are making to yourself, then start working on the commitments you make to others—your customers, your colleagues, your manager.
- Don’t let anyone make a commitment for you. Too often, people commit us to do something, without getting our agreement. Never, never let that happen. Even if it’s someone in your management chain. If they commit you to do something, make sure you are aware of the commitment they have made and make sure you can accept and deliver on it. If you can’t, renegotiate the commitment. Remember, they will hold you accountable for making the commitment–so make sure you can make it.
- We tend to overcommit. So don’t add more commitments until you have retired (completed) at least the same number. You can’t keep piling up commitments, layer upon layer.
Over time, you will start meeting your commitments. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you will be. You’ll be amazed at how much your results improve.
A special note to managers!
- Set an example for your people! If you don’t meet the commitments you make to them, why should they make any of their commitments?
- It’s so easy to commit on behalf of your people. You can overload them and your actions and commitments will make them fail. Don’t make commitments on behalf of your people, or if you do, make sure they accept it and can achieve it. If they can’t do it, don’t force it on them, but help them figure out how they might do it. Remove other commitments, help them reprioritize.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Track people on their commitments. If they are writing them down, you have an easy way to track them and follow up. Coach them, help them become better at achieving their commitments.
Remember, you are never measured on the commitments you make, you are measured on the commitments you fulfill!