Delay the Pain, Beg for Forgiveness

Years ago I came to a stark realization of an evolving culture in the business world. Employees at all levels were making, or agreeing to, commitments that they could not keep. In fact, the over-commitment culture was prevalent at the most critical level of the business – the company to its customers.

Some questions to consider at the initiation of a commitment at any level, include:

  1. Was the commitment realistic and attainable?
  2. Was the commitment a dictate or a blind agreement?
  3. Were the resources and time provided or available to meet the commitment?
  4. Were consequences tied to meeting or missing the commitment?
  5. Did the person making the commitment genuinely believe in its delivery?

Too often, I have found, commitments made today are, at best, hopes for success tomorrow. The lack of a vested interest in the final outcome independent of the length or impact of the commitment seems to be part of an emerging culture. There are two elements at the foundation of this dangerously growing mentality.

First, consciously or unconsciously, over-committing today delays the pain until tomorrow. It could be days, weeks, or months before the consequence of a missed commitment is realized or discovered. During that time we have had a reprieve from any chastisement or pressure about our role in contributing to department or company success. Potentially hazardous conflict has been avoided by committing now, even if we have serious doubts as to the likelihood of our success. Who knows, if we are lucky, maybe the commitment will just go away due to a change in priority or direction, a management turnover, or finding a better job for yourself.

Even more concerning is the second element underlying the evolving culture of over-commitment. Begging for forgiveness often takes the form of an alphabetical list of excuses. People have become conditioned to blaming the lack of achieving their commitments on a host of rational or irrational events. On the surface these excuses appear to be valid reasons for missing commitments. But, what could or should have been done at the earliest awareness or identification of these mishaps or barriers? Excuses, after the fact, cannot be handled or managed. They can only be accepted or not. I say not!

Business comes down to planning and executing. We must plan well and execute well and both of these depend heavily on making commitments that are attainable and owned. Make and meet realistic commitments.

Management Tips To Make and Meet Commitments
Realistic and Attainable
  • Have conviction around the ability to meet the commitment
  • Do not accept your boss’s goal, make it yours
  • Own the commitment
Translate Commitment to Action
  • Break commitments into actionable/measurable output
  • Hold yourself accountable on a short interval basis
Raise Flags Not Excuses
  • Do something about early warnings early
  • Solicit help to address challenges before commitments are missed
Beg for Recognition Not Forgiveness
  • Reinforce small successes
  • Share and promote progress
  • Do not accept excuses
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