“A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.” – Baltasar Gracian
Imagine you work for a corporation, providing excellent service. Over two painstaking years, you develop a reputation of ironclad work ethic; your peers see you as a “go-to” technician.
Then the unthinkable happens: at some point in your very swamped second year, you drop the ball and fail to follow through on your commitment to a customer. The consequences and customer backlash not only reflect poorly on you, but also cause undue stress on your entire department.
In your desperation, you decide your presence will cause more harm to the company than good, so you quit, leaving with your tail between your legs.
Not a pretty scenario, is it? The good news is there’s a simple solution for your business.
Integrity is a delicate thing.
Though you didn’t intentionally deceive the customer in that scenario, you were still pegged as a liar, which caused your downfall.
Remember, people more easily hang on to the negative than they do the positive, and for much longer. All it takes is one incident to undo everything else.
In this case, the problem’s root was an overcrowded schedule. You were swamped, so you made a promise to get the customer off the phone because you had to frantically quench the next fire, which was a higher priority. You sincerely intended to follow through with your commitment, but you didn’t.
The simple solution: breathe first and think more than twice.
As Paul Jarvis writes on the Expert Enough blog: only agree to or promise something you are 100% sure you can do.
If you can’t meet that criterion, say no. Saying no actually demonstrates your entrepreneurial and introspective maturity. Saying no shows you’re honest with yourself about your abilities and schedule.
Time is money, but unlike money, time can never be recovered once lost. Which is why, per Jarvis, saying no also shows your respect for your prospect because you’re concerned for her time and producing only the highest quality of work for her (which won’t happen if you’re swamped with other commitments).
If you have a hard time saying no or expressing disinterest in person…
…you might want to get the prospect’s contact information to follow up with him with your answer. When you request to follow up later, it’s much better to provide him with a timeframe: “I’ll double-check my schedule and get back to you by [insert timeframe here — close of business today, 7pm tonight, first thing tomorrow morning, etc.]” and, of course, stick with it.
And since you’re busy, immediately put the commitment in your calendar — your commitment to follow up with the prospect, or the commitment to do the job. You probably already use a scheduling app, but if not, there are plenty available for you. Two of the most ubiquitous apps are Entourage (Microsoft Office) and Google Calendar (free).
Don Miguel Ruiz breaks it down best:
“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean…”
In the end, the best way to keep your word is to use it wisely (and sparingly). Always take stock of your present commitments before making new ones. Your consistent integrity will separate you from your competition on its own, because in our current culture, most people are jaded by broken promises. They now expect people and companies to not keep their word.
Keep yours and surprise them.
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Flickr photo by buddawiggi.