This is the fifth and final pearl of wisdom I learned from my amazing and truly unique dad, Robert L. Griggs (RIP): “Always be a person of your word.”
One of the oldest and time-tested lessons that we learned was to keep our word. As a business owner and a parent, my dad often had to balance out work- and family-related needs and obligations. A classic example was when I was in junior high. My school would hold Friday-night dances. As awkward as those times were for me (and perhaps most of you), I truly appreciated my dad for taking me to them.
My dad was often exhausted from running his business and it wasn’t fun for him to have to take me to school twice in one day. (We lived in and operated hourly rate motels.) But he promised me that, despite our unconventional and odd life, I would have a normal existence.
As leaders and team members, I want to explore “keeping your word” in a slightly different way. First, it’s important to follow through and keep your word. At a deeper level, however, how many of us get tied to this notion of saying “yes” to everything and feel trapped into having to do it?
One thing I encourage my clients to do is think before they promise to do a task. It is far too easy to simply say “yes” because the team needs it, or the boss asks. But we often become overwhelmed and overloaded from trying to fulfill promises that are too much, or too many, for us. Honestly, most of us already have a ton of stuff to do in our normal work lives.
Adding to that load can be daunting and rough on us as well as those folks at work and home. In closing this topic, I want to share some basic tips that can help you get things done without sacrificing yourself or your sanity for the sake of keeping your word.
1. Understand the power of “No.” Jim Camp’s Start with No is a favorite negotiations-based book of mine. One of his premises is that, when negotiating, you don’t have to use the classic responses, “We’ll see” or “Let me think about that,” when a simple “no,” will suffice. Simply say “no” and that allows the other side to understand your feelings on a specific point.
The same can be said of telling team members and, yes, even your bosses no. Sometimes, the tasks they ask of you are too much for you and your limits have been reached. It may help to share the task load, if possible, but, again, be willing to say no.
2. Distinguish between a favor, a promise and an obligation.
These three concepts are related, yet they are all very different.
An obligation is something that you must do, such as breathing. A favor is a task that is not mandatory, and the completion of that task is optional. A promise, however, is a very personal agreement to someone (even yourself) and it holds a great deal of consequence.
If you’re unsure if someone is asking you to do them a favor, creating an obligation or asking for a promise, think it over before agreeing and truly discuss it with the person.
3. Consider the consequence(s) to you. Look, this one is hard for some of us. But, suppose keeping your word creates havoc and sacrifice for you and others. Is it worth it? Truly consider the consequences before agreeing to certain things.
Martial arts instructors know too well the time you spend on others, the late nights teaching and connecting. Then, you might come home to kids already in bed and an upset spouse (unless she or he works with you, etc.).
Remember, every “no” may be a missed opportunity, but every “yes” will cost you something.
So, now I’ve shared Pop’s five pearls of wisdom. I thank you for reading, commenting and, hopefully, sharing some of these valuable life-lessons with others. It’s been an honor and I am grateful to everyone for your feedback and connections.
Next month’s column will focus on the gift of leadership. Until then, keep finding your inner black belt.
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