What Commitment Looks Like

Jul 5, 2016 | Executive Coaching Blogs

A few years ago a recovering addict told me that she felt she had lost integrity with herself. She considered herself a liar because she wasn’t following through on the promises she made:

  • the promise to quit drinking,
  • the promise to take care of her body through exercise,
  • the promise to stay connected with her own feelings,
  • the promise to stay connected with her mentor and tribe

I realized in that moment that I had lost integrity with myself, too. I let myself down constantly. The free evening I had just for relaxing was the first thing to go if someone else needed something (at work or from a friend). I promised myself I’d work out and didn’t. I promised myself I wouldn’t waste a Saturday just shopping at the mall. I promised myself I wouldn’t stay up another night ravaged with anxiety. The consequences weren’t as dire, but my emotional wellbeing suffered just as much.

I was often really good at making commitments (and keeping them) to others, but certainly not to myself.

Planner on desk with timer

Have you lost integrity with yourself? Have you lost integrity with others?

One of my hot buttons is when someone doesn’t follow through on his/her promises. It really, really bothers me and can even lead to me severing the relationship prematurely. (I worked really hard in therapy, so I can tell you why…but that’s a story for another day.)

Part of the reason it bothers me is because it’s something that irks me about myself. I’m the first to let myself down. I also used to be really bad at not communicating when I was going to miss a deadline. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t say anything.

It sounds so ridiculous to say now, but I felt so insecure about letting others down that it stopped me from openly communicating.

With my coaching clients, former colleagues, and current connections, I see this lack of follow through too often in our line of work. There are employees who over-commit in the name of doing good and let others down. And there are others who over commit and then burn themselves out, thus letting themselves down.

Re-Commit to the Right Work

Our work is not to save the world, save other people, or do it all. Our work is to do the focused work that we are capable of accomplishing in impactful ways.

Simply put: DWYSYGTD. Do what you say you’re going to do, for yourself and for others.

For board members and volunteers: you need to manage your time and energy so you say, “Yes,” to opportunities that energize you. Don’t just say, “Yes,” because someone asked. Say, “Yes,” after taking the time to understand the commitment and expectations.

For employees: you must learn to manage your time, energy, values, knowledge, workload, and your boss to get the right work done. This probably means saying, “No,” more often. This can mean tracking your hours on all of your projects so you can tell your boss when your project plate is full. This means managing your emotions and having a filter for all of your ideas.

DWYSYGTD looks like this for yourself and for others:

  • Showing up to meetings on time AND ending them on time
  • Creating outcome agendas for all meetings
  • Having difficult conversations and questioning assumptions
  • Taking ownership and radical personal responsibility for your time, energy, and emotions
  • Openly communicating and sharing knowledge
  • Responding in a timely manner
  • Not always being connected to email, text, Facebook messenger, etc. etc. etc. (unless your job is to truly respond to others [i.e. customer service], very little real work happens here)
  • Resting when you need to
  • Working when you need to
  • Building trust by honoring your commitments
  • Being honest when you can’t honor a commitment
  • Understanding your role on a team: decider, input-giver, advocate, advisor, action-taker, project manager, timeline-owner

Now it’s your turn.

How do you choose the right opportunities to commit to? And what does commitment look like to you?

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