I’m 56 years old and I’m embarrassed to say that it’s taken me so long to figure this out:
People who consistently follow through on their words are exceedingly rare.
Unfortunately, most of us, no matter how well-intentioned we may be, let our words fly out of our mouths with reckless abandon without realizing that the person we’re talking to is hearing us with critical precision.
We think we’re just spewing words; they’re hearing a commitment, a pledge, a vow to follow up and deliver.
I believe that we’ve let ourselves get away with mindless lip flapping for far too long; therefore, let me suggest this: if you could, somehow, hold yourself ridiculously accountable to your own words, if you spoke with a contractual attitude, you could earn a tremendous competitive advantage over 99% of the population. You could earn the rare status of the person whose word truly is their bond. Imagine the cred you’d gain.
I don’t mean to be preachy. Truth is, I’m lecturing myself more than anyone. None of us is perfect, and neither is the world we live in. But I can tell you this: since I’ve been thinking deeply about this subject, I am intensely more aware of my own words, and much more upset with myself when I don’t follow through on even the smallest of commitments. Because in truth, there is no such thing as a small commitment, simply because each feels gigantic to the recipient.
So, yeah, I’ve been beating up on myself more than usual. But the good news is that I’m also getting much better at that follow-through thing.
So let’s try something together. For the next week, pay very close attention to your own words and challenge yourself to treat your every utterance as though you’ve just signed a contract. Just try it. See what it does to your thought process, and, even more important, your actions. And I’ll do the same.
Because I said I would. (Get the point?)
Years ago, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner coined a 7-word phrase that would change everything if we took it seriously:
DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do
Let’s try it for a week and see what happens.