Being Reliable

I’m a sucker for digest emails from Quora.  They get me to click through nearly every time, because they’re routinely filled with really great content.

A couple days ago I ran across the question “From the perspective of a CEO, what are the most underrated skills most employees lack?”  A terrible question, slathered in things that annoy me – “most underrated”? “most employees lack?”  It all makes me think of stupid life hacks, and people looking for secret shortcuts – but it had some really great answers just the same.  This one from Auren Hoffman really stuck out to me:

If you consistently do what you say you will do, you will almost certainly be someone people desire to have on their teams.  It is so rare that when you work with someone who is reliable, you never ever want to work with anyone else.  You will do anything to keep that person on your team.
Doing what you say you are going to do starts with setting the right expectations.  If you tell someone you will get them the deliverable by Tuesday, you need to understand that it can actually be delivered by Tuesday.  If you are good, you are probably factoring in slack in case someone in corporate slows you down or your child gets sick.

And so if your boss wants something done Monday and you think it cannot be done until Wednesday, you need to be up-front.  Because once a date is agreed to, you’re on the hook for accomplishing it.

 

On its face, this seems super obvious (which makes it even better – it’s not sneaky or surprising or underrated) – but it got me thinking: am I lax in doing what I say I’ll do?  How bad is it? How annoyed are people with me about it?  Not just at work either – at home, and anywhere else I interact with people, how often do I treat spoken agreements with nothing more than passing interest – to be fulfilled if I happen to remember?

So I’ve been giving some thought to being more reliable.  Auren hits on these points briefly in his post, but it’s worth fleshing out: what does it take to be more reliable?

For me, it’s 2 things:

1. Remembering what it is I say I’ll do.

I’ve got a terrible memory, and as I said, I treat conversations pretty lightly. As a result, I often just forget things that are talked about, or agreed upon.  upon reflection, I realize how terrible that really is.  So step 1 is to start writing down everything I agree to – from work plans to calling the eye doctor and making an appointment.

2. Saying no.

When you don’t put much stock in your verbal agreements, yes comes quickly and easily.  Why wouldn’t it, if it’s meaningless?  The problem with following through is that you quickly find yourself too busy to finish everything you’ve agreed to – meaning that if you really want to do what you say, you’ve got to get real about your time constraints, workload, and priorities – and say no much more often.