That was the response Jack Dashwood, a local high school baseball player, gave to a reporter when asked why he honored his verbal commitment to play baseball at U.C. Santa Barbara (the first school to offer him a scholarship) and turned down more prestigious offers to play at larger schools.
“I was flattered other schools wanted me, but education is first. I wanted to play for a U.C. school. I was determined to honor my word, prove I was trustworthy. So I signed my letter of intent.”
I was struck by the mature response of this high school senior. In the world of competitive high school sports where exceptional athletes compete for coveted college scholarships (that hopefully lead to lucrative professional opportunities), it’s far too common to see recruits renege on verbal commitments and jump ship to the latest and biggest program that will guarantee them a quicker or surer path to success.
Dashwwod’s example provides three simple, yet powerful, lessons that many adults would be lucky to learn:
1. A commitment is a commitment—It doesn’t matter if it’s a verbal agreement, a handshake, or a written contract—a commitment is a commitment. If you make, you should be prepared to honor it. One area about commitments that has tripped me up, and perhaps you’ve experienced the same thing, is implied commitments stemming from unclear expectations. I’ve made comments to colleagues or team members to the effect of “Let me think about that,” or “I need some time to process that idea.” To me those are vague, non-committal statements, but others have interpreted them as meaning that I’m agreeing the ball is now in my court and I’m on the hook for the next action. I’m learning the value of leaving meetings and conversations with clear expectations about who owns what about any next steps.
2. Dependability is the foundation of trustworthiness—Dashwood nailed this on the head. Dependability is at the root of what it means to be trustworthy. Trustworthy people keep their commitments. If they agree to do something, they do it. If challenges crop up that will prevent you from delivering on your commitment, then communicate early and often with the people involved to discuss the ramifications. DWYSYWD—do what you say you will do—that’s the heart of dependability.
3. Have a plan to follow-through—I truly believe that most people intend to follow-through on their commitments. However, I think a lot of us don’t have an effective plan to do so. We neglect to factor in the time or cost of what it will take to deliver on our commitments, and so we get over-committed and overwhelmed, neither of which is conducive to helping us fulfill our promises. Oh…I said the “P” word. Above all, be careful with the P word. The word promise carries a tremendous amount of power. Don’t say you promise unless you absolutely, unequivocally, know you can deliver. Set reasonable expectations for when you can deliver on your commitment and make sure you factor in the time and cost to do so.
How about you? Is your word as good as a handshake?