(Editor’s note: This is Part six of a 10-part series examining the building blocks of effective L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. This time? R = RELIABLE.)
"Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” -- George Washington Carver
This concept is pretty simple, isn't it? We expect that Sam's mom will pick up our child from school when promised ... that our salary increase will take effect as scheduled ... that our boss will fight for our marketing budget as he said he would. We expect our leaders to have our back, to be responsive, to honor their word and generally do what they say they're going to do when they say they're going to do it. It's simple ... but when it's absent, it can be paralyzing.
How many times have you said to someone, "I'll take care of it," and somehow failed to accomplish the task you assumed. It's a handy throwaway line we've all used, but if you don't take the next step to make sure that commitment is built into your workflow, it will never be honored. The challenge is that you're probably repeating that line to any number of people throughout your day ... with only good intentions, of course … and may overlook that your commitment is far more memorable to each person to whom you make it than it may be to you. What's missing is your commitment to honor your promise and make sure you take the necessary action steps to get it done.
I've exercised a modicum of literary license this week because while I believe R = Respect is an important building block of an effective leader, I've already written extensively about it. In fact, I have today released my second free e-book, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: How to Get It By Earning It, available at Exkalibur.com. So, maybe I earn a "Twofer" this week … and since Respect is already in the bag ... maybe even a "Threefer" when you consider that Responsibility is at least a kissing cousin of R=Reliable.
Reliability presents an interesting medley. While all of us expect our leaders to be reliable, Reliability is a characteristic that once lost, may be irretrievably gone. If you develop a reputation for being un-reliable, people will stop asking you for your help and support because they can't depend on you. If that happens, your tenure as a respected leader will be short-lived.
Sure, it's easy to respond ... "I'm very busy, I have a lot to do" ... "I have other more important priorities" ... but that won't fly with the people to whom you make commitments. If that's the best you've got, don't make any promises at all. Just say, "I can't do that ... I won't do that" ... or "go to someone else to have it done." The worst thing you can do is take on the responsibility and fail to deliver.
It's demanding to be reliable because it means that you need to get virtually everything done to which you've committed. You may have committed to provide leadership, resources, new products, funding ... bagels for this morning's meeting ... and everyone knows it. Even if someone only "perceives" that something needs to get done, e. g., your products are outmoded and definitely need to be upgraded, your "Reliability Quotient" will quickly dissipate when people don't see those new products being developed. Your colleagues will assume that what they've noticed by accident should be one of your core responsibilities. They will expect you to get it done even though you may not have made a specific commitment to do it.