I’m always looking for ways different ways to make it easier for people to think about their promises.
Last week listening to a recent Knowledge Project podcast, I stumbled on a conversation between host Shane Parrish and a guy called Jim Dethmer with a lively section on promises, except they don’t call them that.
Jim is the founder of The Conscious Leadership Group, and he calls them agreements. Now I know the legal minds who are reading this might want to squabble over my interchanging the term, and yes it does have a particular place in the pantheon of legal and promissory theory. Still, I’ll run with Jim’s definition for my purpose here.
“An agreement is between two or more people and is anything I say I will or won’t do. The key here they need to be clear – who is going to do what by when. Anything else is sloppy.”
(The whole podcast is great but start listening at 41 minutes for their deep dive into clear agreements.)
Clear agreements are the mother’s milk of making promises. When I look at broken promises and the resulting collateral damage to the brand result, a lack of clarity about what was agreed always jumps out.
Side-by-side with that is endemic reluctance or agreeing to stuff you don’t want to do. Sure in any organisation there is going to be a huge chunk of things you don’t feel like you have a choice on.
More from Jim:
“When you make agreements you don’t really want to make, a couple of things are going to happen you won’t do it, or you’ll struggle to do it because you didn’t want to in the first place, or you’ll do a crummy job, it will be half-assed.”
Sure, in organisations, my agreement is sometimes mandated and often coerced. However, even in those situations, you can still exert endeavour to get clear. And perhaps in the process find a glimmer of want to do in the have to do.
It’s worth the effort. Jim’s research shows a pandemic of unwilling or downright slopping agreeing happening in organisations with 40-60% of agreements not kept. Let me rephrase that – organisations break 40-60% of promises they make.
Take a minute to consider the impact. How on earth could anyone interacting with an organisation which breaks 60% of their promises ever hope to feel confident about that relationship?
If you had a friend, who broke 60% of their promises, you probably wouldn’t be friends for long. I suspect that statistic is writ large across the personal lives of people lining up for divorce courts.
If thinking about promises sends you back to the safety of fuzzy intentions, take a step to the right, and look at what you’ve agreed to do. With whom. And when. If you can’t cleanly identify those elements go back and talk to the person your agreement is with and get clear. It’s a bilateral process. There is always a promisor and promisee.
As the last step, always to capture whatever you agree. Write it down, play it back, not to cover your ass, but to ensure the agreement is explicit and understood on both sides. Strip out the legalese of contracts, and that’s what you should have – clear agreement.
If I asked, could you tell me clearly (what, who, when) the agreements you’ve made today?
Note: This is a ‘subscriber only’ blog sent on July 30, 2019. Sign up the mail list if you’d like to periodically get articles like this. I only post them to this blog after subscribers have read them.