I didn’t coin the phrase “Later – Liar.” It was something I heard in a speech by a senior leader of a very large Voluntary Benefits insurance carrier. I will not reveal their name to protect the innocent-ish. It took me a few days for it to really sink in, but once it did it has haunted me ever since.
I don’t know about you, but I often promise something in the moment and then forget (or choose not to make it a priority) to deliver on time. Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, once said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” I can relate.
When I Say:
“I’ll get that report to you in a bit,” it really means, “Once I run out of things I think are more important, and check Facebook, then I’ll start working on your inane report.”
“I’ll call you back in 10 minutes,” turns into two hours or sometimes two days.
“Of course I’ll cook dinner,” turns into a mad scramble right before my wife gets home.
“I’ll finish writing my book Proverbial Leadership,” has become just 2 chapters over the last 6 months.
And the hits just keep on coming.
Even if you don’t relate to my examples, I’m guessing you could come up with at least half a dozen of your own.
Why do we do this? I’m not sure. For me, I think I have every good intention but lack an absolute commitment and/or sense of urgency. Are all of the things cited above important? Of course they are. But clearly I don’t find these things critically important, or I would deliver on them as promised. I would hit the deadline.
What Is The Differentiator?
Over the years, I have worked with very few professionals who consistently delivered on the items they committed to faster than they promised. In fact, when someone does, it often blows my mind. A few years ago I worked hand-in-hand with an insurance carrier rep I’ll call Chris. During sales presentations, Chris would promise our mutual prospect materials by close of business the next day. He invariably would deliver on that promise within two to three hours of leaving the prospect’s office. I’m sure it made a great impression on our prospect. I know it did on me.
When I asked Chris why and how he did this incredibly consistently, his answer was very instructive, “I know me. If I don’t do it immediately I will forget by tomorrow. Besides, I don’t need that crap floating around in my head.”
So why is it so important to hit the deadlines we promise others and ourselves? When we don’t, it shows lack of focus. It shows lack of character. It shows lack of Integrity.
I can almost hear you saying, “Yikes Tim!!! Aren’t you being a little harsh? Are you equating missing a deadline with lying?”
Integrity and character aren’t just about not lying, cheating or stealing. Our character is dependent on integrity. Integrity is about keeping our commitments even when it is inconvenient. Even when there are other things vying for our attention. Even when we just don’t want to.
Every time we don’t keep our word, we lose a little more credibility. More importantly, we begin to subconsciously lose faith in our ability to keep our word. So how do we stop lying to ourselves and others?
Tim’s Top 5 Tips For Not Being a Liar
- Do it now! If at all possible, don’t wait until later to deliver. If you have the materials on your laptop, go to Starbucks and email them immediately.
- Write it down! And keep it in some type of system where you are forced to see it. I use Nozbe and it has been a lifesaver. (Click here for more information on Nozbe.) It is easy to forget to deliver on our promises once the next opportunity or challenge presents itself.
- Don’t make excuses! Really, stuff happened? You mean that once you made the commitment, the world didn’t stand still? Using the excuse of being too busy is like the person who is chronically late to work and blames it on the traffic. (Oh yeah, they are invariably holding a beverage from Starbucks.)
- Just say no! It is easy to keep your word if you don’t commit to it in the first place. “I am too slammed to get you my projections today,” is much better than, “I’ll get them to you later…” and then not doing it.
- Quit your whining! You made your bed, now go lie in it. If you didn’t have the guts to say no, it is time to put on your big boy (or girl) panties and deliver. Nobody else cares. Just do it!
How hard is that? All you have to do is run your promises through the above checklist and everything is going to be perfect, right? Well, that might be your experience, but I still struggle with this every. single. day. But being aware of it, and making a commitment to keeping my commitments, helps. It also helps me to watch for things I promise to deliver in the future, and then say to my self, “Later – liar.” It reminds me to keep my word, under-promise, and then over-deliver.
Your turn: What commitments did you make this past week that you might not have delivered on? Go back immediately, apologize and fix it. You may be surprised at the positive reaction you get.
Let me know where you struggle the most in this area by leaving a comment below.