Breaking Commitments Sabotages Your Career and Personal Life

Commitment? What’s That?

“Gain a modest reputation for being unreliable and you will never be asked to do a thing.” – Paul Theroux 

CommitmentWould you agree we live in a world filled with some pretty flakey people? It drives me crazy when someone says they’ll do something and they don’t without even acknowledging they made a promise.  “I’ll email you a copy of the article.” “I’ll look into that invoice and get back to you by 5:00.” “I’ll watch your kids while you take your dog to the vet.” “Sorry, but I have to cancel our monthly coaching session again” (with a lame explanation or none at all).

No article, no call, no coaching session – just empty promises. It seems reliability and personal integrity have gone out of style. Maybe we’re old fashioned but we believe commitments should be made with the purest of intentions and not taken lightly. The hard, cold reality is keeping your agreements demonstrates you have personal integrity. Not keeping them reflects on your character. Integrity and character are what relationships are built on, how reputations are maintained and essential to living a successful life.

Reasons People Don’t Keep Their Commitments

One reason for so many broken commitments is we live in a society of people pleasers. We don’t want to disappoint so we end up making agreements we can’t or don’t want to keep. We become “yes people” and don’t realize we are damaging our reputation. Frankly, we greatly respect people who are more direct and can say, “I’m sorry to disappoint you but I cannot agree to that at this time.” That takes fortitude and is a class act.

ReliableEarly in my career as a Vice President at a large bank, I often had to work with human resources to keep positions filled. Sherry was one recruiter in particular that made my job challenging. She frequently made specific promises such as “I’ll be sure to post your job this week”, “I’ll get back to you by Friday with some resumes”, “I’ll follow up with that branch manager and see if he’s interested in the position.” More often than not, she didn’t follow through and I had to get back with her again and again.

Why didn’t she just leave a message and tell me she needs more time? Or better yet, be realistic with her time commitments. Other department managers felt the same way and before you knew it, Sherry was labeled as a “flake.” In other words, she didn’t keep her agreements. Don’t let that happen to you. If you want to be a High Definition PersonTM, be reliable – do what you say you will.

Another reason many people don’t keep their word is they are so unauthentic that they flippantly make commitments they have no intention of delivering on. One common one is “I’ll call you and we’ll get together for lunch” (Ha – how many times have you heard that one?) Other reasons are they realize they’re over-committed, it’s just “too hard” to keep the promise, there’s “nothing in it for them” or they just don’t see the damaging effects of their behavior.

To keep an agreement you have to take responsibility for the agreement. So when you make an agreement, engage your brain and ask yourself, “Can I keep this agreement? Do I intend to keep my word?” If not, don’t make the agreement!

There Is an “Out”: Ask to Change the Agreement

IntergrityWhat if you made an agreement with the best of intentions and something unexpected and important comes up (you’ve been asked to fill in for LeBron James?) and you just can’t keep your commitment? There’s a simple solution: just ask the other party if you can renegotiate the agreement. People are usually pretty understanding when you acknowledge your agreement even if you’re asking to modify or even cancel it. They will likely respect you for demonstrating personal integrity.

High Definition LeadersTM consider it a privilege to be a boss or lead a team. They recognize they must work every day to earn and keep the trust of their people. Likewise, High Definition People® are valued because they are dependable and keep their commitments. The highest compliment you can pay us is, “You can count on Barb!”

High Definition People® Reflection and Action Steps

  • How often do I casually make commitments and forget I made them or just avoid keeping my word?
  • Do I try to please people and at times say “yes” when I really would rather not make the commitment?
  • What can I do differently in the coming weeks and months to be more reliable and trustworthy or instill these traits in those close to me?
  • BEFORE you make an agreement, take personal responsibility by assessing whether you can realistically keep it or if you even intend to.
  • Consider who else down the line would be negatively impacted if you did not honor your word?
  • When you make a commitment, tell yourself this person has your reputation in his hands, write down what you said you would do and don’t cross it off the list until you deliver or change the agreement with that person (not with their spouse 😊)

We’d love your input. Does our post resonate with you? How do you handle flakey people who don’t keep their agreements?

Thanks for joining the conversation,


Barbara Sanfilippo, CPA, CPAE
High Definition People®

P.S.  If you’re planning an employee meeting, kickoff event, leadership retreat, etc., read six factors Barb delivers on and watch my demo video to see how I’ll engage and inspire your employees to achieve your 2018 strategic objectives. Let’s plan an exciting and informative motivational presentation or workshop at your leadership, sales or all-employee meeting!

Outstanding job Barbara! You were by far the highest rated speaker in our staff development and leadership series. Your energizing and idea-packed session, Engage Staff, Deliver Service, Dream Big! was the perfect message to get everyone to take ownership and accept responsibility for patient satisfaction and their own work and life satisfaction. The comments on our staff evaluations were full of praise and superlatives!

— Slidell Memorial Hospital

P.P.S. Watch for the debut of my new book in 2018, a business parable written to equip leaders and their staff with a fun and easy tool to build awareness of the need to improve their self-management skills and relational ability.


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