“Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.”
“A promise made is a debt unpaid, And the trail has its own stern code.”
from “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” by Robert Service
Honor Your Commitments To The Company, Your Peers, and Your Customers
This Principle is a “make-or-break” in respect to your reputation.
If you say you will do something, you better damn well do it. Customers and co-workers must always be able to rely on your word. Note this is one of the most important "policies" of logistics giant UPS... We Do What We Promise.
Do not fall into a trap of your own making. No matter the task or assignment or request, always follow it with:
“When do you need this?”
The answer will allow you to 1) rearrange other commitments, 2) determine if you can meet the request, and 3) allow you to manage your own time. In the event of conflicting priorities and a possible inability to meet expectations, talk to your boss or requestor right away, or negotiate a due date.
Yes, negotiate. All due dates are negotiable. Except when they aren’t.
The more open and honest you are about constraints, the less likely you will disappoint. But do not make a habit out of “rolling the grenade” under your boss’ desk, or she’ll find a better manager of problems and deadlines.
A crucial commitment we make to others is our attention.
As to phone calls, there are different opinions in business environments. Here’s the marine and the UPS way. If not in a meeting, answer before the third ring. The phone is the lifeline in business, and people normally call because they need something, or are responding to your need. Do not treat the ringing phone as an annoyance. I have worked with fairly easy-going leaders who would turn demonic if a phone, any phone, rang more than three times and a diving leap could have prevented it.
If in a meeting, silence the phone. If you need to answer your desk phone or cell phone and others expect your attention, apologize and then explain briefly and sincerely that you must take the call, even if to just ask the caller if the issue is urgent and if you can call back at a pre-determined time. Reasonable folks know the drill.
In regard to your cell phone and texting and attention span. Old school leaders hate when a fellow conversant is sidetracked by texting or what-not. Bad manners. Unless it’s an emergency, make the thing silent, and deliberately turn it over to show you respect the other person’s time.
As to accessibility, a leader works the floor, moving to her people, staying engaged, and not waiting for people to come to her. We have all experienced the competent gargoyle, the specialist who hides behind success and stays frozen and cooped up on a perch. We avoid this person for chemical reasons and eventually everyone, co-workers and customers, do not seek her counsel. Leaders are available and have either an aura of approachability or schedule the time to give that access to others. Accessibility is correctible.
In closing, if you cannot meet a commitment to someone, admit it quickly while alternatives may still be explored. Hiding behind failure will certainly ruin your reputation, perhaps irretrievably.