This is the best career advice I have ever been given although it wasn’t until a few years ago that I understood why. There was a man I worked with.
Let’s call this person “Frank.”
Frank was loved by everybody at his company. He had an infectious smile, a kind heart, many years of experience in his field, a beautiful family, a powerful network and a sense of optimism that rivals Victor Frankl who made it out alive from a concentration camp without being gassed.
Basically, as we say in Australia, he was “A Ripper Bloke.”
Frank, on the outside, seemed to have it all and that’s why I looked up to him. Then, I got a brief chance to work with him and it all came undone. He was brilliant and must have been an immaculate conception except for one tiny, little detail that screwed him up:
He never did what he said he was going to. And the worst part was it was entirely unintentional. He meant well. He meant to do it. He just never did.
One afternoon I asked him if he had done the report that a manager in another department was urgently waiting on.
“Not yet, but I will.”
“When can you do it by?”
“I’ll have it done by 5pm today for you.”
The crazy thing about what I was asking him to do was that there were no repercussions on my part. It was his credibility on the line and whether the report was or wasn’t done didn’t affect me.
It got to 5pm and he hadn’t done the report. I asked why and he replied, “I got busy with another client but don’t worry, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Tomorrow came and by the end of the day, the report still wasn’t done. I decided to take drastic action and booked 30 minutes in his diary for the following day where we were going to sit down together and do the report.
Actually, that is not entirely true. What was really going to happen was he was going to show up wearing a metaphorical diaper for the day and I was going to act like his parent and sit there and watch him do the report even though I had absolutely nothing to contribute.
So, at the agreed time, he wasn’t where he needed to be. I walked around the office searching for him and saw him sitting in a corner office talking on the phone. I told him to get off the phone as he was late to a meeting and he did so promptly.
We went back to the playpen of his desk and I told him to open the report and do the work. For the next thirty minutes, I sat there and watched him do it. Even when it was finished, I didn’t leave until he had hit send.
Now, this whole situation may seem like no biggie. You could argue that I’m nothing more than a self-help, productivity-obsessed asshole and you may be right. But there’s more to the story.
A year prior to this babysitting exercise, he’d been given a significant promotion at work which he deserved and was more than qualified for except for one tiny, little detail: he never did what he said he was going to do.
For the first six months, nobody really noticed and it wasn’t a massive issue. Then after he’d been in the role for a while, it became a huge problem. To combat the issue, I’d help where I could, but it was never enough. There were so many promises made and I could never keep up with the outstanding list.
I felt as though I needed a voice recorder to record all of the promises and then a thousand line spreadsheet to record them all. It was though I needed a CRM just to manage promises instead of the usual input of prospects.
While only I noticed this problem in the beginning, others began to catch on.
When people realized he never did what he said he was going to do, something bad happened: Frank was stripped of his fancy job title and given a demotion without warning or explanation.
It broke my heart to watch because he really was a good guy, but his illness of breaking promises took away everything he’d worked for and he couldn’t see this for himself.
Ever since this experience, I have become obsessed with not having the same problem wipe out my career. Whenever I say I’m going to do something, I follow these steps:
1. Indicate a deadline
The key to doing what you say you are going to do is giving a deadline. It shows commitment and forces you not to get lazy or forget.
A deadline holds you accountable and simultaneously creates focus.
2. Communicate if the deadline will be missed in advance
We are all human which translates to sometimes life will get in the way. Things can take longer, disasters can occur and situations out of your control can screw up your plans.
If you are going to miss a deadline, it’s okay. Don’t leave it to the last minute and communicate to everybody why this is occurring, what you’re doing to fix it — and most importantly, what the new deadline will be.
3. Blocking out time
Busy has become the new crack addiction for today’s workforce. To prevent this problem, I block out time in my calendar to execute on my promises.
I treat these appointments as though they are with my doctor and are a matter of life or death (because they are).
These appointments go into my calendar and I show up at the scheduled time ready and prepared to do the work and feel awesome at the end knowing I kept my promises.
4. Try to do at least 1% more than was promised
The real power of doing what you say is when you communicate an outcome and then aim to do at least 1% more.
Giving people more than they asked for creates a lasting impression.
People think, “Wow this person not only does what they say, but they also overdeliver. I like that.” Delivering what was promised is like getting a pass on your exam paper.
Doing more than what was promised is aiming for a high distinction in life which translates to endless opportunities been given to you from people wanting you for your ‘deadly ability to execute’ when so few ever do what they say they are going to do.
4. Sit down and do the work distraction free
Doing what you say you’re going to do mostly comes down to removing all the obstacles in your way.
Delivering to me looks like this:
- Find a quiet place
- Never bring my phone
- Stay there until it’s done no matter the pain
- Think about how good it’s going to feel when I’ve done the work
- Setting up a small reward for myself such as tea, a movie, or some dark chocolate
The result of doing what you say
By learning from Frank, I discovered the power of doing what you say. It has become the single biggest contributor and differentiator in my career.
Strangers I’ve never met want me to help them with their work and offer to pay me a lot of money to do so because they’ve heard about my ability to deliver. My nickname in some circles has even become “The Executioner.”
Thanks to the learnings and escapades of Sir Frank, I took this idea and repackaged it into my blogging career. I told publications how many articles I was going to write per week and then I did everything I could to deliver. Sometimes it meant skipping Friday drinks and other times it meant not being able to watch my favorite movie on opening night even though I’d waited five years to see it.
The result led me to publish 1000+ articles on the internet that now contribute a large amount of passive income to my earnings, which I use to chill the fuck out and enjoy life.
Instead of trying to differentiate yourself in your career with formal education which can be bought by any of us, try doing what you say you’re going to do repeatedly.
It’s the best marketing you can do and it creates a word of mouth marketing strategy behind closed doors that will see you get promotions, form strong relationships, earn more money, and maybe even start a successful business one day.
Learn from Frank the way I did and use doing what you say you are going to do to your advantage.