Leadership: Broken Promises

I've been on a tear lately. I admit it. And my poor, hapless customers have been the recipients.

I've been holding them to their promises.

When I was a little girl, I learned from my father - an entrepreneur in his own right - that your word was your bond. That you didn't say anything that you didn't fully intend to deliver on.  That a handshake was as good as a contract - better, in fact, because a handshake was you putting your integrity on the line.

You kept your promises.

If you didn't you were a liar. Sometimes a cheat. Always someone not to be altogether trusted.

Not now and, possibly, not going forward.

That's why I've been on a tear. It bothers me that:

  • Executives say things to their employees that, in their heads, they think they're going to do - but, in reality, know that they won't.
  • Customers say to their suppliers that they're doing a deal - and then renege on it, whether in whole or in part or in any way at all.
  • Compensation Committees on Boards promise shareholders that they'll ensure that CEOs are fairly paid for their accomplishments - and then give the CEOs far more than they deserve.

Most of all, it bothers me that those on the receiving end - whether employees, suppliers or shareholders - feel that they can't do anything about the situation.

You're wrong if you feel that way. And you're wrong if you don't do something about it.

After all, in your personal life...

When you promise that you're going to do something - or even that you'll do your best - you keep those promises, don't you? And...

...when someone gives a promise to you, you expect them to keep it, don't you?

This is no different.

Because when someone breaks a promise to you in your personal life, you question whether you want to have them as part of your life any longer. From friends to your local dry cleaner, it's the same thing. Promises made and broken lead to decisions that end friendships and ensure you'll find other providers of services that you can trust.

So, if you're making promises that you know you can't or won't keep - stop it.

If something has changed, let the person on the receiving end know. Chances are, they'll understand.

If you're on the receiving end of promises that are consistently broken, go on a tear. Hold the person who's making those promises to their word - even if it's just by reminding them that they said what they did.

It's time for honesty and integrity to come back into vogue. It's time for everyone to keep their promises.