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Don't make promises that you can't keep
Tribune Media Services
Q: I work in an extremely frenzied industry and just lost a promotion because my boss said I wasn't courteous enough. Specifically, he told me I take too long to return calls, make people wait over 15 minutes when we have meetings, and don't follow through on what I promise. Isn't he being unrealistic to expect me to do these things when every day is chaos?
A: No, your boss is recognizing that trust, integrity and respectful behavior are the foundation of a successful career. People believe you possess these qualities only when they see you voting with your feet, i.e., doing what you say you will.
In our hectic business lives, it's easy to try to make people happy by promising everyone we will do everything. However, when it comes time to deliver, no one is willing to accept our good intentions as a substitute for performance.
Ironically, you're probably in hot water with your boss because you're a really nice person. Most of my clients who overextend themselves are some of the kindest people I know.
They're also people who feel chronically harried, underappreciated and overworked.
Promising too much, like any bad habit, can be changed. The next time someone asks you to commit yourself to a meeting, a project, or an action, ask yourself the following:
1. If everything goes wrong today, will I still be able to do what I just promised?
2. Do I have enough information to know I can deliver what's being asked?
3. Are there factors outside my control that may prevent me from performing?
4. Do I have previous commitments that will interfere with this request?
In addition, if you default on a commitment, don't expect that your apology will fix the trust you just broke. Your future ability to keep your word will work better than any charming words.
The last word(s)
Q: Are people skills that important if you deal mostly with technology?
A: Yes, because computers can't promote you.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at email@example.com; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube
Copyright 2006, Tribune Media Services