This is the third blog post of a series, “12 Simple tricks to Success” from Findamentror.com. We reveal one trick each month for you to read and practice so that in 12 months you’ll have developed some habits that can expedite your success. Enjoy!
Just like every trade and profession has its’, “tricks of the trade”, all very successful people have 12 tricks they do, no matter what industry or institution they work in. They do those things consistently. They are important processes that great and successful people follow.
Trick number three:
Keep your agreements — spoken and unspoken.
. . . Do what you say you will and re-negotiate when you can’t.
As a businessman, I discovered early the most successful people are reliable in almost every aspect of life and they keep their agreements.
I also discovered early that many people break small agreements often enough to condemn themselves to mediocrity. Many feel that seemingly small agreements can be broken because they’re unimportant. They believe that being late for a meeting won’t hurt anyone or that a client won’t really mind if a call isn’t returned exactly when promised or that a project may be late but it won’t ambush anyone else’s plans. They say to themselves ‘the consequences will be small and everyone can handle them.’
The consequence of breaking small agreements is eventually loss of trust, respect and opportunity. It brings upon us a habit of unreliability. Each of these losses writes the label of mediocrity larger and larger on us as we go through life. Other people are chosen for important projects, promotions are not offered to us, opportunities are presented to those that show capability of excelling, not those who are doing an ‘okay’ or a ‘good enough’ job.
Managers, co-workers and peers may say, “He’s a pretty good worker” or “She’s usually on time” or “He always gets the job done — not always on time, but so what?” Many might perceive these statements as nice compliments, but consider the difference between “He does a good job” and “Her work is exceptional.” Who would you want on your team? Do you want be part of a pretty good team, or do you want to be part of an exceptional one?
Most people are good workers. They do their jobs and will be employed. Many of us want to stand out and to be considered leaders. But despite the desire of many to stand out and lead, few people excel in their careers. Those who do, go the extra mile often and especially when it comes to keeping their agreements and re-negotiating when they can’t. All agreements matter. When we keep them, they build trust and honesty.
The old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” comes from experiencing a common situation: an inability to follow through with promises. A key part of human interaction is trust, and a key part of building trust involves keeping our agreements, even the little ones and unspoken ones.
As humans interact with other humans, agreements are made. Some of them are written, some are spoken, and some are unspoken. A common spoken agreement is, “I’ll have that done by tomorrow for sure.” Common unspoken agreements are, “When I speak, I am telling you the truth.” Or “I’ll be on time for work.”
Every time I break an agreement with another person, a layer of trust is stripped away because expectations are not met. When we are late for work or a meeting, we can call and let someone know that we will arrive at a different time. Re-negotiating helps maintain trust and manages expectations.
Sometimes we make agreements quickly without thinking things through and we regret the decision. In that situation, we can create an opportunity to renegotiate. Sometimes this is embarrassing. Pushing through embarrassment to be honest and renegotiate an agreement is critical to success.
I believe that our willingness and courage to be honest is intimately linked to our ability to keep agreements, communicate effectively and be successful. When we are not honest, we attract dishonesty. A spiral of dishonesty begins that interferes with our, and others’ ability to communicate and succeed. Communication often breaks down when people cannot trust us to follow through with agreements or tell the truth — after that, success breaks down to failure.
All of us set limits on how much dishonesty we find personally acceptable. We do it to protect ourselves and to keep ourselves from feeling vulnerable and judged. Sometimes our small dishonesties are even encouraged by society.
But there is usually a greater degree of honesty available to us when we really search within. I may tell myself that my dishonesty falls within the standards acceptable to society and everything is fine. But is it? If we accept that lies attract more lies, it’s easy to see how quickly even a small “untruth” can lead to more lies and eventually a very messy situation.
On the other hand, when I continually challenge myself to be honest and strive to keep all my agreements, I attract honest people and my ability to be honest increases. With practice and compassion, I can make honesty and keeping agreements a rewarding habit.
Spoken and unspoken agreements are part of life. People who keep all their agreements or re-negotiate when they can’t are few and far between. But then, so are successful people. People who succeed in life arrive at meetings on time. They phone when they are late. When they say they will do something for a customer or a co-worker, they do it, or they phone the customer or co-worker and explain why they can’t.
They understand, however, that constant re-negotiation is the same as not doing what they say they will. Re-negotiation has more credibility if it isn’t part of every agreement.
When we keep our agreements, we gain respect and trust. We are viewed as reliable people with integrity. People depend more on us for leadership, advice, troubleshooting, and even friendship. Good management recognizes leaders and rewards them with promotions and raises because it knows that reliable people are the foundation of a successful business.
I built a cellular phone business from the trunk of my car to 3 stores and 3 million in annual sales over a nine year period. When I moved from selling phones from the car trunk to selling them from a small store, the lease agreement was made with a handshake. After we had done all the leasehold improvements and been operating for three months, the landlord said to me, “We better get something in writing here.” Two days later we signed a one-page document.
I had known the landlord for almost five years. I met him when he interviewed me for a job 5 years earlier. I chose not to work with him directly then, but we stayed in touch. He became a mentor and a customer before he was my landlord. The point is that because both of us knew and trusted each other’s commitment to keeping agreements, the business transaction was very smooth, comfortable and allowed for a kind of peace of mind we don’t always find when operating a small business.
These kinds of transactions occurred often for me when building a business because my handshake was considered as good as my signature and my networks include people with the same type of character. People trust me to do what I say I will do. People who keep their agreements tend to associate with other people who keep their agreements.
The benefits of being perceived in this way are not just professional. Co-workers, peers, and friends outside of work need reliable people as much as business.
When we build the habit of keeping agreements into every part of our lives, we will eventually find ourselves surrounded by people who are reliable and help us succeed. We gain the confidence we need to become successful. No great undertaking is achieved by one person. Great people have other great people working with them.
But how do we practice getting better at keeping agreements? It’s difficult if we believe the agreements are insignificant and the consequences are trivial. However, if we accept the opposite, then it becomes easier to practice keeping the promises we’ve made — all of them, even when we’re scared. It’s really very simple: Acknowledge the fact keeping agreements is important to success. Trust your basics intentions to be trustworthy. Commit to integrity. The more we practice, the better we get at it. Eventually keeping agreements becomes a habit and it drives us nuts if we can’t keep one. This is the state of being, successful people reach.
People who keep agreements prefer working with people who are the same. Would you rather work with someone who does what they say, or, with someone who does what they say — some of the time? The choice is clear.
The choice is yours. You can develop the habit of keeping agreements, being honest and being recognized as someone, super reliable or you can be in the habit of renegotiating many agreements. It’s the super reliable people that are most successful. Be one of them. Develop the habits of reliability in every aspect of your life. Be the choice of integrity and attract more integrity.
Have a great day keeping agreements, every day.
Thanks for reading.