The Power of Dependability

How do you and the young people in your life rate when it comes to following through on your promises? As any parent or manager will attest, dependability is one of the most valuable qualities of successful people!.

Imagine it’s your summer vacation (especially my Northeast friends!) and you’ve had the pleasure of reading two great novels. Upon finishing them, your inner book critic rates them each four out of five stars. However, prior to reading them, you expected the first one to rate three stars and the second a perfect five. Question: did you experience the same level of satisfaction from both books? Interestingly enough, probably not!

If you’re like most people, you felt more satisfied after the first one. That’s because it turned out better than you expected. In contrast, you were probably a little disappointed with the second one because it wasn’t as great as you thought it would be.

This illustration demonstrates the importance that expectations play in our lives. The gr

eater the expectations, the greater the risk of disappointment. It also explains why it’s so important to keep your promises. After all, if someone promises you something, you’re entitled to expect they’ll deliver on their word.

Some people habitually overpromise and underdeliver (hello politicians!). They promise the moon because they aim to please or inspire.. They say what people want to hear and feed off of their enthusiasm. However, all they do is create false hope when they can’t deliver on their promises. After a few of these incidents, people wise up and sense the manipulation, It’s a surefire reputation buster…

When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it messages that we don’t value or respect them. Rather, we prioritized something else more highly than abiding by our commitment. Lacking follow-through communicates to others that they cannot count on us. This takes a heavy toll on our relationships—personally and professionally. And, it’s probably one of life’s most common sources of frustration and disappointment.

If anything, it pays to underpromise and overdeliver. By doing so, we’ll pleasantly surprise others by exceeding their expectations. (Interestingly, one of the greatest predictors of an outperforming stock is whether its earnings beat Wall Street estimates!) Here are some proven ways to master dependability:

  • Before committing, honestly appraise what you’re realistically able to do and by when.
  • Allow yourself a “fudge factor” – estimate a slightly longer deadline, slightly higher cost, etc. That way, you can provide at least what you’ve promised, if not more.
  • If the project takes a little longer or costs more, you’ll still be able to come close to your original estimate. And if you’re able to deliver sooner or under your original estimate, you’ll look like a hero!
  • If something unexpected threatens your ability to keep your promise, let your manager (or parent!) know as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the deadline to spill the bad news!

Do yourself and others a big favor. Only promise what you can deliver. It’s a true sign of integrity, and it will greatly benefit you in your professional, academic, and personal lives!

How have others reacted when you failed to deliver on your promises? It’s one of our greatest learning lessons, isn’t it? How are you training the children in your life to be dependable? We’d love to hear from you!

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