I’ve worked with a number of leaders who struggled to create strong relationships with their team members. When we dug into the team dynamics, we would often find an undercurrent of discontent among their team members. This discontent would appear as a lack of faith in the leader’s ability to follow through on their commitments. You would find that team members would go outside of the department, to Human Resources or to the leader’s boss, in an effort to resolve their issues. For the most part, these leaders were well liked on a personal level by their team members, so it wasn’t a matter of personality. What was apparent though was that somewhere along the way the trust between the leader and the team had been damaged. The team no longer trusted their leader to get things done for them.
Truth is, there is no quicker way to undermine the relationship you have with your team than failing to follow through on your commitments. Most of the time leaders who fall into this trap genuinely mean well when they make a promise. They want to be helpful to their employees and they intend to do exactly what they are agreeing to do. But factors such as poor time management skills, a lack of self discipline or an overall level of disorganization leave them falling short. They commit without an accurate understanding of whether or not they will actually be able to follow through on that commitment, and they don’t understand that when they drop the ball, their credibility is damaged. Too many dropped balls and trust gets broken.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter that you meant well. When you over promise and under deliver and blow through a commitment you’ve made the message you send your employees is that you really don’t care about them. They may forgive you and act like it is no big deal the first or second time you personally do this to them, especially if you have built a good rapport with them otherwise. But over time, you will get a reputation for not following though with your commitments and they will begin to take the important issues to someone else who they do trust. And when that happens, you will no longer be an effective leader of your team.
My advice…actually, you should strive to do the opposite, under promise and over deliver. That way you can make sure that you deliver on every commitment you make. The key is to only commit to those things that you know absolutely for sure that you can deliver. If you have any hesitation at all about your ability to do so, you should not make the promise or the commitment. Great leaders treat their word like gold and they build strong trust levels with their teams as a result of it.
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