People inherently value reliability. In fact, every day we value:
- Reliable cars that save time and money on repairs
- Reliable mail that gets delivered on time
- Reliable investments that deliver expected returns
- Reliable cell-phone service to stay connected
- Reliable vendors who show up on time
- Reliable airlines that take off on time
- Reliable restaurants that have quality food and service
- Reliable friends and colleagues who do what they say
When these things are reliable, they yield winning relationships and results. 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 daily success, the most important question to ask is "How reliable am I?"
We want to collect reliable people in our lives. We do not want to deal with those who aren't. Reliable people get and keep friends more easily, 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. So, to realize these benefits of being reliable, here are eight simple actions you can take.
- Manage Commitments. Being reliable does not mean saying yes to everyone. On the contrary, reliable people use discretion when they make promises to others. However, most people tend to slip on their commitments because they overestimate their available free time and want to please others. So, to more reliably manage commitments:
- Ask yourself if a commitment 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?
- Focus on timelines (when work gets done) versus 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 underpromise and overdeliver.
- Think about a commitment. Particularly if you feel pressure to please the other party, ask for a day to think about the commitment and check your schedule. Reluctant or forced commitments are always a lose-lose in the long-term.
- Know when to say no. You can even say yes with limits. Avoid noncommittal answers like maybe. Be clear and direct. Redefine the term polite by taking the long view. You might be appeasing the other party by saying yes now, but you will ultimately disappoint them (and yourself) by overcommitting and then not delivering.
- Proactively Communicate. Avoid surprises. If you make a promise that you can't meet because of truly terrible and unforeseen circumstances, let the person know as soon as possible. Bite the bullet and do not wait until the last minute to tell him or her that you cannot do it. If you are late, call ahead to let the person know when you can meet instead of letting the person wonder where you are. Respond to inquiries and emails within 24 to 48 hours, even if it's just to say "I got it and will get back to you by next week." When you use excuses and simply do not let the other party know your status, you are basically saying, "You are not important to me."
- Start and Finish. 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 is rarely convenient, so reliable people let their actions rise above their excuses.
- Excel Daily. Implement daily disciplines to sharpen your focus, and strive for everyday excellence. Excellence does not equal perfection (which can be a barrier to reliability). It is doing the very best you can at that moment and always looking for ways to improve the next time. A task worth doing is worth doing well, regardless of how rewarding and important or menial or mindless. The person who takes pride in his or her work, whatever it is, moves ahead; he or she who cannot be trusted with little things will not be trusted with big things. The reliable person chooses to focus on what he or she can control and to excel regardless of circumstances. In short, the person blooms where he or she is planted. As my friend Tim Durkin's grandmother used to tell him, "If you can't get out of it, get into it."
- Be Truthful. Be full of truth-tell the full truth. Deceiving others is not simply a matter of lying, cheating, and stealing. It can be in a look or a gesture. We can tell a lie by omission or when we pass along gossip. Anything that leads people to believe something that isn't true is dishonest. Does everything you use to communicate tell the full truth? If not, you are a source of unreliable information.
- Respect Time, Yours and Others'. If you tell someone you can meet at a certain time, you have made a promise. Being on time shows others that you are a person of your word. When late, you are saying, "My time is more valuable than your time."
- Value Your Values. Your values should dictate your behavior, not your circumstances or fleeting feelings. Maya Angelou said, "You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights." Being a reliable person not only means doing what you say, it also means doing what is right, regardless of what you have committed to. Many tasks in life and work are inherent in the role you play (a boss, parent, friend, sibling, mentor), and the reliable person does not have to be told what to do. For example, if you have a job, you show up to work on time. If a friend loses someone close to him or her, you attend the funeral regardless of how uncomfortable you might feel. If a child is struggling, you give your support. If a team member looks overwhelmed, you help out.
- Use Your BEST Team. Your BEST (buddies who encourage success and truth) team is a personal and powerful way to ensure your being reliable. Rome wasnotbuilt in a day; neither is the reliable person. Choose wisely those you want on your team. Ensure they offer the energy, truth, and positive perspective you need to orchestrate your actions. There is no better test than time when it comes to relationships, so start small and build your BEST team slowly. The key is to connect with your BEST team, individually or as a group, on a consistent basis. Depending on the relationship, you can play the role of teacher or student. In either role, you need people who will support your success. Your BEST team can help you:
- Hone your self-awareness. Depend on your team to give you truthful, constructive feedback to keep your beliefs based in reality.
- Affirm that your actions are aligned with your values.
- By giving you a chance to help them. As the proverb says, "In teaching others, we teach ourselves."
- Rehearse challenging situations before you go live.
Take a baby step by focusing on just one action, and create a habit. You will become more reliable each day, and soon you will be the most reliable person in the room.