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Honoring Commitments

Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.

Denis Waitley 


We all make commitments both big and small, intentional and accidental, significant, and insignificant.

Commitments are the lifeblood of relationships.

On a daily basis, we agree to pick up Chinese takeout on our way home from work, agree to look in on an ailing neighbor, and to drop the car off for service.  We tell our families what time we will be home from work, agree to do the laundry, and volunteer to serve at the local homeless shelter.

At work, we agree to strict time schedules, meet clients for lunch, and set aside time to meet with an employee.  Our clients hear from us our commitment to provide quality service for a set amount of reimbursement.  We commit to keeping our employees employed, to pay off business loans, and to follow the laws as they relate to our industry.

Yet, on a regular basis, we all see people in our circle of influence fail on their commitments.  A friend says he will call and doesn’t.  A client agrees to pay and doesn’t.  And an employee says she will finish a project and fails.

Why is it that we find it so easy to dismiss our commitments?

Honoring Commitments

While we cannot fix all that ails our society, we can impact our little sphere of influence.

Honoring your own commitments gives power to the words that come out of your mouth two ways.

First, those that hear your words know they can be counted on.  What you say is always what you will do.  People notice when commitments are consistently honored, and they will come to respect, admire, and emulate you.

Second, by honoring your own commitments, you set the bar for everyone else in meeting their commitments.  As a business leader, you need to be the example that those who work for you and who you work for can see to follow.

Here are several suggestions that will help to be a person known for honoring commitments.

  1. Say no. Don’t commit to things you know you cannot fulfill.  At best, qualify your commitment.
  2. Define and communicate. Make sure the level of your commitment is explicitly understood.  Follow-up with a note or email to reinforce exactly what you have agreed to.  If your commitment is for a set time, then build that into your calendar.  If it is a deliverable, then spell out exactly what will be delivered.
  3. Take commitments seriously. Every commitment is a moment of truth and an opportunity to create positive impressions about your character and leadership.  When asked for a commitment, let the person asking know how serious you take their request.
  4. Never over-commit. Think of a person you know who routinely over-commits. No one takes them seriously and always has contingency plans when they are involved.  Would you like that reputation?
  5. Demand others to honor their commitments. When others fail to meet a commitment, you need to let them be aware of how they failed.  If they missed a lunch appointment, they need to know the impact on you.  Whoever misses a deadline needs to be reminded of the others they let down.

The Bible

Psalm 15 says.

O Lord, who may live in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy hill?  He who walks without blame and does what is right and good, and speaks the truth in his heart.  He does not hurt others with his tongue, or do wrong to his neighbor, or bring shame to his friend.  He looks down upon a sinful person, but honors those who fear the Lord. He keeps his promises even if it may hurt him.  He gives money to be used without being paid for its use. And he does not take money to hurt those who are not guilty. He who does these things will never be shaken.

Verse 4 says “He keeps his promises even if it may hurt him.”  Among the list of what God expects, is a command to always honor your commitments.  Even if it hurts, commitment honoring is so important to God, that we must honor it even if it costs us money, time, or worse.

To redeem the emphasis of honoring commitments in our business world today, we need to take our own commitments seriously, and allow that action to teach others to also take honoring their commitment seriously.