Volume 7 Number 4 | April 2017
There was a classic moment in the old Seinfeld series when he's at the rental car agency and they have no car for him. He points out that he has a reservation, is that understood?
"I know what a reservation is," says the employee.
"I don't think you do," replied Seinfeld.
A reservation is a guarantee. Our commitments should also be guarantees. Yet we all experience the people—sometimes friends, sometimes clients—who don't take commitments seriously. They cancel at the last minute. They miss deadlines. They offer excuses. They don't come through when we need them. They let us down.
We have to be careful not to accept this as a way of life and fall victim to it ourselves. Honoring a commitment is one of the most important trust factors we can provide as consultants, and this, of course, is a relationship business.
Why Do We Get It Wrong?
My advice is to engage in commitments that are win/win. If I feel you're gaining but I'm losing (money, time, repute, etc.) then my adherence to my "guarantee" is eroded. Marriage vows are commitments. A handshake is a commitment. Your agreement to do something is a commitment.
But the real reason for thinking about this is that when someone breaks a commitment, I can usually recover just fine but I think less of them forever. I'll never use or endorse again a guy who backed out of his commitments to me at a convention. I worked around his absence, but his absence will last far into the future as far as I'm concerned.
We diminish ourselves far more than we inconvenience others, when we fail to live up to our commitments. Some people institutionally avoid the consequences: politicians, weather forecasters, financial advisors, horse track touts. But these are not people I find especially attractive or profound.
With friends and colleagues, with people in whom I'm willing to invest, I expect commitments will be honored and guarantees fulfilled. I've always tried to do that myself, and I've never failed to profit from it.
Maybe that's the lesson: committing to our own honor.
© Alan Weiss 2017