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Is there a Difference between Making Promises and Keeping Promises?

December 9, 2013

Checkerboard 4x4Despite the seemingly irrelevant nature of the subject matter, my commentary “Is Keeping Promises a Thing of the Past?” gained significant traction within the LinkedIn community. The piece was written out of frustration for what seems to be an alarming trend and a most dangerous game.

importance of keeping promises is self-evident; or is it. One could argue that keeping promises depends on the personal, business and financial circumstances. Hogwash! With all the attention on bottom line results, doing the right thing must prevail. To the extent that families, companies and countries survive in highly competitive and political environments trust is all there is. This means doing what one says.  The consequence of not doing so is a Tower of Babel with a tenuous life expectancy.

Promises are made in a world in flux.  The underpinnings of which is a diversity of ideas and new circumstances in an ever changing world. A simple 4×4 checkerboard illustrates the power of diversity. How many squares does one see in this checkerboard? Sure, there are 1, 4, 9 and 16 squares; 30 total squares or any combination thereof. The point is perceptive and how the question or promise is phrased. Perception is a complex fusion of culture, aptitude and beliefs, amongst many other attributes.

Change is another matter.  Change is the only constant in life. Therefore, today’s promises may not be applicable tomorrow. In this context, only sure way around this reality is to keep people well informed in a 360° direction.  Ironically, communication made easier by the internet is undergoing a transformation in the negative direction. Questions of delivery, receipt and clarity of correspondences abound. The stoke of the send key is hardly a substitute for clear, concise and executable communications.

The issue of making and keeping promises is universal. Back in 2009, Steve A Furman reported on Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Forum. Bruce Temkin’s, Managing Partner, Temkin Group, Keynote address “Charting Your Customer Experience Journey” touched on this very subject. Bruce “recounted something his mother taught him as a young boy. If you make promises, keep them.”   He illustrated this golden rule by the following chart, which shows brands deliver value by keeping promises, not just with communications. If this is true of dish detergent should this not be true of all human interactions and enterprise

making-keeping-promisesSource: Expedient MEANS

In closing, making and keeping promises is not real issue. The problem is leadership. Possibly too many self-proclaimed leaders come from Redbox kiosk. Leadership begins with truly authentic souls that provide trust and govern with integrity and ends with keeping promises and keeping all informed. Sort of ‘50s-ish mentality, I guess, for right or wrong.

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