Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
John Donne, English metaphysical poet from the late 16th century, once said, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...” As an employer, husband, and father, I can truly appreciate the concept behind this truth. No man (or woman, as it is PC to say in the 21st century) is alone in this world. We have others on whom we can depend to help us achieve success. However, before we can depend on others, we should set an example by first understanding and practicing one of the principles of success: do what you say you are going to do, and do it when you say you are going to do it.
Dependability is a characteristic more often used to describe cars than people. Having others depend on us gives us a healthy dosage of importance that is good for our self-esteem. Doing what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it, builds character that is admired by parents, teachers, spouses, peers, employers, and especially customers. It is the dependable children that get more independence, it is the dependable student that gets the better grades, it is the dependable employee that gets the promotions, and it is the dependable business that gets the customers.
Dependability, just as any other quality, is a learned behavior that can be improved with practice. Here are some tips on how to become more dependable.
- Keep a schedule, calendar, or to-do list. Organization and knowledge of your own workload and commitments are keys to dependability.
- Write down everything! Don’t depend on memory. The moment you commit to action, write it down. Then, when convenient, transfer the action to your schedule, calendar or to-do list.
- Avoid, “I’ll try.” I am not one of those people who will tell you to remove the word “try” from your vocabulary. “Try” is a valid word with many valid meanings. However, it shouldn’t be used when committing to action. This is a very weak and ambiguous response to a request. “I’ll try,” essentially means, “Don’t count on it.” If you are honestly unsure whether you can commit to the action or not, but plan to make your best attempt, instead say, “I will do my best.” Otherwise, respectfully decline the commitment and maintain your integrity.
- Request responsibility. Ask your employer, customer, teacher, or parent if you can do anything for them. Taking this proactive approach goes a long way in bringing you closer to success.
What happens when you just can’t deliver? Despite your best efforts, you find yourself not being able to do what you said, or do it by the promised time. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Prevent this situation from happening in the first place. Before making a commitment, think carefully about what it will mean if you break the commitment. Don’t let others coerce you into committing to something to which you are not ready to commit. Respectfully decline commitment when needed, and you will be respected for it.
- Be up front and honest ASAP. The moment you realize that you cannot deliver, let the other party know about it. Do not make excuses, and take responsibility for your actions or lack thereof.
- Apologize. Offer a sincere apology for not being able to deliver on your commitment. Again, do not offer excuses, just a sincere apology.
- Reschedule with an additional benefit. I once saw this comedy skit where a guy borrowed a videotape from his friend. Each day the friend would ask if he brought the video back and each day the guy who borrowed the tape would appease his friend by saying, “No. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do...” and promising to bring it the next day plus bringing more videos, taking him out to dinner, and other added benefits. Each day he would “sweeten the deal,” but never deliver on his promises. I guess you had to see it to find it funny. Anyway, this is an illustration of how rescheduling the action with an additional benefit can appease the one the commitment was made to. Of course, this technique can only be used on occasion when needed, and should never be misused as in the extreme example above.
Do what you say you are going to do, and do it when you say you are going to do it. As leaders, we must set good examples for those who follow us. Imagine if everybody followed this rule of success, what a world it would be!
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)