A business that delivers reliable results is a sum of reliable individuals. So business reliability starts with each person. Since reliability is so important to business success, the most important question a leader should ask is, "How reliable am I?"

Reliability is like rain--everyone knows they need it, but no one wants to get wet. It's easy to talk about how "they" need to be more reliable, but it can be uncomfortable when we apply it to ourselves. When is the last time you heard someone say, "I really need to be more reliable?" It doesn't happen very often.

We want to collect reliable people in our lives and on our teams. We do not want to deal with those who are unreliable. Reliable people get and keep friends easier, forge deeper relationships, receive the best opportunities, are granted more autonomy at work, have more self-confidence, live with integrity and carry a clear conscience.

Reliable people have a high say/do ratio, the ratio of things you say to the things you actually do. Initiative and closure are the bookends of reliability... and success. The best way to finish strong is to start strong. Keeping your word or simply doing the right thing isn't always convenient, but reliable people let their actions rise above their excuses.

Being reliable does not mean saying yes to everyone. On the contrary, reliable people use discretion when they make commitments because they consider them as personal promises to others. However, most people tend to slip on their commitments because they overestimate their available free time and want to please others.

Here are three habits that will boost your say/do ratio and your reliability.

Ask yourself if this is a high priority for you. If it is a low priority for you today, what will really change to move it up to a high priority tomorrow? Particularly if you feel the pressure to please the other party, ask for a day to think about it and check your schedule. Reluctant or forced commitments typically result in lose-lose situations.

Focus on timelines (when work gets done) vs. deadlines (when work is due). Since people tend to think a task will take less time than it actually will take, double your estimate to ensure it will fit within your other commitments. Better to under promise and over deliver.

Avoid surprises. If you make a promise that you can't keep because of truly terrible or unforeseen circumstances, let the person know as soon as possible. Bite the bullet and do not wait until the last minute to tell them that you cannot do it. If you are late, call ahead to let the person know that when you will arrive instead of letting them wonder where you are. This shows respect for their time and preserves your credibility.

Paul Spiegelman is the former CEO of The Beryl Companies, current Chief Culture Officer of Stericycle and bestselling author. He has found an unusual balance between reliability and the award-winning culture he has stewarded at his booming company. Spiegelman explains, "We don't like surprises. It's okay to give a leader a heads-up--that shows you are managing to timelines. But if you don't give a heads-up and you miss the deadline, then you are just managing to deadlines."

Start these three habits today and watch your reliability and credibility grow!

See more practical leadership insights at the author's blog.