How to Make Good Promises at Work
The Alphabet of Communication
Trust as currency
We make promises all the time. In our management work, it’s all about the promise. Keeping promises creates trust. And trust is currency. Literally.
There’s a good algorithm for how to make good promises:
A promise with a deadline <=> Fulfillment of the promise on the specified date and time <=> A reminder of the promise, its fulfillment, and a step into the future.
Let’s say an important stakeholder on Tuesday night asks you for a list of trainings to be given to your product team. Even if you’re holding the list in your hand, you don’t have to give it to the stakeholder right away.
You should say, “I would love to give you all the information on Thursday at 10:00.”
On Thursday, at ten o’clock, you knock on the stakeholder’s office and say, “You asked me for a list of trainings on Tuesday, and I promised to give it to you on Thursday, at ten o’clock. Today is Thursday. It’s 10:00. Here’s the list.”
A couple of days later, be sure to meet with the stakeholder and say, “You asked me for a list of trainings on Tuesday, and I promised to provide it on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and I did. Perhaps you might be interested in some of my thoughts on options for developing our product?”
The example is exaggerated, but it’s just to be clear.
This is the algorithm they teach future diplomats. For them, as for managers, stakeholder trust is the key to success.
But most importantly, try not to make promises you cannot keep. A promise not made is much better than a promise not kept.