Leadership is About Integrity. Act Accordingly.

“Show me the money, Jerry!” –Rod Tidwell

Talk is cheap. People know that what is said doesn’t always carry a lot of weight. We’re used to being promised a lot but often getting very little.

We are all pummelled with advertising all day long. If we buy this car, drink this drink, or join this gym, we are guaranteed a fantastic new life. But we know that’s not really true.

The same thing seems to happen at work.

Much of the time, people all around us have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. Vendors, colleagues, bosses. Customers, partners, staff. It can happen to anyone.

Mostly, they do this with the absolute best of intentions. The world is in a frenzy of busy-ness right now and lots of people are embracing that in all sorts of ways. Including as a legitimate reason for falling short (as well as a convenient excuse).

And we accept that, because we know that we can be caught in that very same trap ourselves.

Which makes it easy to somehow sympathize with the person who disappoints us.

But we also know to factor that disappointment into the next time we get a promise from this person.

We know that what they say could easily be different from what they actually do. And we account for that as we take the measure of their future promises…

Here’s the thing: people are evaluating you and me in that very same way.

They are Watching You Like a Hawk

People may not always listen to you carefully, but the are almost certainly watching your every move.

After all, that’s how trust is formed. They need to know if they can trust you to do what you said you were going to do.

Because once they know that about you, it saves them a whole lotta hassle. It gives them a reliable shortcut. They need to have a sense of how close your walk matches your talk. It tells them a lot about you, and about how much they should expect from you in the future.

If you care about how others form this impression of you, you can change it a lot. Because there are really only two things you need to do.

But first, you need to watch yourself.

Watch Yourself

Take a measure of your integrity. Reflect back. Look ahead. Or pay close attention as you move through the next few days or weeks.

What are you promising?

What are you delivering?

How do those two things match up when you are dealing with a boss, a coworker, a client, or anyone else who might be depending on you.

The more you are consistent between what you offer…explicitly or implicitly…and what you deliver, the more powerful your influence will be. Because people will trust you more.

Of course, you have two ways to adjust these things as you go forward.

Adjust Accordingly

You can work both sides of the equation. You can get better at promising, and you can get better at delivering.

Might it be better to promise more accurately, sometimes?

Perhaps you shouldn’t commit unless you are absolutely certain that you can deliver.

Maybe you could adjust your promise to hedge the bet in your favor. Like maybe promising a draft of the report by Wednesday rather than a final report on Friday. That gives you a chance to involve the other person in the shaping of the work before it is finalized.

Should you simply deliver what you said, no matter what it takes?

Sometimes you may have made a commitment and it’s going to be painful to deliver on it. Something else is going to have to suffer…like your lunch hour, your evening plans, or a few hours of sleep.

Maybe you should just suck it up and do it. Take the pain as a price of education and adjust accordingly going forward.

Following through on that one thing might be really important right now, and in the long run.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions speak louder than words. We know that’s how we tend to measure others. And we know that’s how we are often being measured.

Adjust your words. Adjust your actions. Make better promises. Make better deliveries.

Bring it all together for a better sense of integrity.