By Lex Gillette
You’ve heard the phrase before, “Say what you’ll do and do what you say.” This is how you become reliable. When you’re reliable you can be trusted. When you can be trusted, people believe that you will deliver when it counts.
There’s a common sports phrase, “clutch time.” It means that when time is of the essence, and the game is on the line, you need someone to produce results. Outside of sports, you still want to foster that reputation for getting it done and avoiding the “unreliable” crown. Here are three things that will help you establish your reputation as reliable and trustworthy.
Be 100% sure you can deliver
Think about this. You plant a bunch of apple seeds in the soil. You water and care for them. A tree springs up from the ground and grows. Eventually, you walk outside to pluck one of the fruits only to realize that there are oranges hanging from the tree limbs, not apples.
That’s crazy! We should be able to trust an apple seed. It has one purpose: to fulfill the promise that when we put it into the ground, it will eventually bear apples for us to eat.
You need to be 100% sure you can deliver on what you promise.
For example, let me ask:
- Knowing that you promised friends you would go to the movies with them that night, would you tell your co-workers that you’d stay late and help complete a project due the next morning?
- Would you tell your boss you will write up a new proposal by close of business that day knowing that you have to pick up a family member at the airport at 3 PM?
- Would you promise your partner a date night knowing that your rec league soccer game ends just a few minutes before you’re supposed to pick them up?
Your answer for all of these should be a resounding “No.” Particularly if you want your partner to stay your partner. (Sheesh! Do you have a death wish?)
Listen, don’t make promises you can’t keep. People expect you to produce the fruit you say you will bear.
Honestly, I feel like I’m coaching myself right now. I have a very hard time saying no.
If you’re like me, we get into these moments where anything seems possible. We really, sincerely want to help and say yes to everything.
- Yes, I can help you do that.
- Sure, I’ll meet you for coffee.
- I absolutely have time to help you get that done.
Nine times out of ten, any single one of these requests is a small thing. But we say yes to so much that our schedules get weighed down with the promises we’ve made. We feel the stress of getting things done for other people as well as the stress to accomplish our own tasks.
Repeat after me – “No.”
Felt good, didn’t it?
It’s okay to say no. If you walk away from this post with no other insight, please remember to use this word. It will save both you and the person you’ve made promises to.
You’re saved because you’re not stressed or in a time crunch from the additional items that overwhelm your workload. They’re saved from your inability to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to satisfy your promise.
Saying no doesn’t always mean never. It can mean not yet. Circle back to the people who seek your help or offer them another time to check in with you. At a later date or time, you may be able to give a confident yes.
When you’re 100% sure you can deliver, you give your complete attention to the task and their needs. Saying no when you can’t do something will reflect far more positively on you than saying yes. Use the word.
If you can’t do it, say so. Often people want to be everything to everybody. That’s just not possible. Nobody can be a master of all. I’ve tried. (See section on saying “No.”)
In my experience, you’ll be far more appreciated if you can stand there and say:
- “I can’t help you because I know nothing about calculus.”
- “I’m really not comfortable talking to you about those things, and I don’t want to be a part of that conversation.”
- “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But I don’t have the bandwidth to help right now, and I don’t know when I will.”
Some say that honesty is the best policy, but I heard Dr. Myles Munroe say, “Honesty is the only policy.” He contends that if you say, “the best policy,” you’re implying there are other options to choose from.
There is no better option when you’re faced with a request for help. Choose to be honest. Honesty can never undermine trust.
Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver, learn to say no, and be honest. If you follow these three rules, you will put forth your best effort in any aid you offer. That means you’ll have people calling on you because they know you’re reliable, trusted, and can deliver when it matters most.
Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 4x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.
Photo of Lex and Wes Williams by Joe Kusumoto.