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Today, we talk about integrity.
More specifically, we talk about your reputation and your word, but it all stems from integrity.
The higher your integrity level, the more easily a good reputation happens automatically.
In other words, if you have integrity, you don’t have to work hard at shaping your reputation.
What does it mean if you commit to something? What does it mean if you say you’ll do something? Is there a 50% chance you’ll do it? An 80% chance? A 97% chance?
How valuable is your “yes”? What is the weight of your word?
It’s easy to make promises you can’t deliver on so people feel good in the moment, but it comes at the expense of the long-term relationship.
When it comes to business, are you selling with a focus only on today or are you serving with a focus on the next 30 years?
Your word is your reputation. Your reputation in business is everything.
How we operate in business is a reflection of how we operate in our personal lives. Today, I want to talk today about the importance of your words.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- The more integrity you have, the easier it is to uphold a reputation.
- Your reputation is the amount of your integrity that people see.
- Focus inward on your own integrity and a good reputation will come as a byproduct.
- Earn trust by following through.
- Strengthen personals commitment to yourself—this is the core of your integrity.
- When you break a commitment to yourself, you make it okay to break commitments to other people.
- Take advantage of opportunities to build trust with your clients.
- Under-promise and over-deliver.
- If you have new goals, set new commitments and expectations to align with your goals.
- 01:13 Sean: Your word is your reputation. Your reputation, in business, is everything. How many people are selling for today and not serving for 30 years from now?
- 01:30 Ben: I really want to get into what it looks like to not bother with the weight of your word or that part of your reputation. What does it look like for a business to disregard that and sell for today?
- 01:47 Sean: It doesn’t just have to be today, but the short term. The short term could be years, even. When you lie and it gets found out that your cars are actually putting out terrible emissions, how are people going to feel about that? How are people going to feel about not even the thing that you did, but the fact that you weren’t upfront about it? You didn’t have integrity. I want to talk today about the importance of your words and keeping your commitments.
Why Your Reputation Is Important
- 03:22 Why should someone care about their reputation? If you’re thinking long term, your reputation is how you sell things. Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” They’re buying into your story, no matter what it is. It’s easy to argue on a surface level that people just want the product, the end result, but really, they buy into your story, especially when it comes to comparing similar product offerings between you and a competitor. They’re buying the story, why you do it, and all of that ties back to your reputation.
- 04:12 Ben: It depends on what market you’re in, too. If you’re in the commodity market, your reputation doesn’t matter as much. That’s where you want to be. We’ve established that that’s a race to the bottom. If you want to be in the premium market and provide value, what sets you apart from your competitors, aside from your unique value, is your reputation.
- 04:56 Sean: Simon Sinek posted a separate quote, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.” A reputation is hard to rebuild. First of all, it’s hard to build. If it’s ruined or tarnished, it’s difficult to rebuild. Robert in the chat room said, “The only way to establish a reputation for integrity, quality, and value is to deliver it over and over and over. It’s kind of like the Magic of 7—you have to be really consistent. You can’t just do one thing right one time. You have to keep doing it over and over.” I said, “Isn’t it interesting how the reverse, destroying a reputation, takes but one incident?”
- 05:58 Ben: I liken it to cleaning or tidying. Depending on how messy the room is, it can take a long time to put everything in it’s place. Even if it isn’t a messy room, if you’re trying to create a system for where things go, that takes a long time. It can take minutes to completely wreck that same room and undo that work. A lot of things in life that are worth pursuing as character traits, as qualities, have that same kind of ratio. The ratio of building and developing to damaging and destroying is kind of off.
The more integrity you have, the easier it is to uphold a reputation.
- 06:55 Sean: I’m thinking about the relationship between reputation and integrity. There’s a stronger connection. Your reputation is the amount of your integrity that people see. The greater your integrity is, the less work you have to do to try and shape or manipulate the outward facing reputation that you have.
- 07:44 Ben: Integrity has a lot to do with your personal values and commitments and how you uphold those, regardless of whether or not someone is looking. “I’ve made this promise, and I don’t care whether or not people see whether or not I break this promise. It’s important to me that I keep it for myself.” People underestimate the power of that. When your personal integrity is high, keeping commitments and building a good reputation comes a lot easier, because the person you’re most focused on keeping your commitments to is yourself. It’s not a selfish or self-centered thing as much as it is being so interested in keeping promises that it doesn’t matter if it’s to yourself, whether nobody sees it, or whether a bunch of people see it—you’re always going to keep promises that you make.
- 09:01 Sean: Like with a lot of things, it ends up being focusing inward on your values, on integrity. If someone listening right now is thinking, “I have to work on shaping my reputation and doing PR,” if you focus inward on your own integrity, a good reputation comes as a byproduct.
- 09:29 Ben: I was actually thinking about two types of people who may be listening to this. I think most people agree that personal integrity and developing a good reputation are really important things. For some people, that may come a little bit easier. It may even feel like, “This is really easy. Of course I’m going to keep a promise to myself.” They’ve got a lot of self-discipline in order to do that. There are other folks who, despite their good intentions, struggle to keep promises to themselves and to other people. They feel kind of stuck in that.
- 10:27 When we’re dealing with these things personally, especially if you’re the person who’s in charge of setting the vision and direction of your business regardless of the size, what you’re experiencing personally is going to spill over into business. Think about the CEOs of huge companies. Their personal integrity and their set of values can lead them to make decisions on behalf of that company that lead to creating a poor reputation for the company. It’s got huge implications, and that’s why I feel like it’s really important to deal with this on a personal level first, because of the way it influences your business.
Do You Have Integrity?
- 11:13 Sean: If it comes back to integrity, Ben, do you think integrity is something people have or they don’t, or that it’s something they can build? The follow up questions would be, how does someone know whether or not they have integrity? If they’ve determined that they don’t or they feel like they don’t right now, how could they go about building that so that their reputation increases as a byproduct?
- 11:45 Ben: The number one question to ask is, do I keep promises to myself? This could come in the form of resolutions you’ve made or goals you’ve set. Maybe you’ve said, “Today I’m going to go running for 30 minutes.” Did you keep that commitment to yourself or did you let it slide? How comfortable did you feel with letting it slide? For people of high integrity, it really bothers them. There’s another side of it that’s about guilt, shame, and having an unhealthy relationship with not meeting commitments. If you’re a person who recognizes that and you feel the sting of that, and that pushes you toward being more purposeful about the promises that you make and following through on commitments, you’re a person of high integrity. If you’ve slipped into a situation where you’re okay with breaking a promise to yourself, then your personal integrity is low.
- 13:30 Sean: Ben brought up if someone didn’t follow through on something, how they felt about that determined their integrity. It wasn’t like, “If I said I was going to wake up at 6am and I didn’t, I don’t have integrity.” Ben honed in on how you feel about that. How did you feel when you weren’t able to follow through or deliver on something? That is the integrity potential. Maybe, as far as other people are concerned, you don’t have a good reputation for following through on something, but internally, you may have the potential for having integrity and a good reputation because you’re bothered by the fact that you don’t.
- 14:21 Ben defined integrity earlier as being able to follow through on commitments you’ve made to yourself. If we dissect that, I like the three P’s of accountability—Personal, Public, and Partner. Of course, personal is the most difficult for most people. Most people, if they say they’re going to do something publicly, are a little bit concerned about their reputation. If they say they’ll do it and they don’t, their reputation takes a hit. It’s the same with a partner. If you say, “I’m going to go to the gym with you at 6am. Stop by my house tomorrow morning at 6am, and I’ll be ready. The next day, I’m going to stop by your house.” If the person stops by the next day at 6am and you’re not there, your reputation takes a hit. We tend to value those commitments more than commitments to ourself, because the damage isn’t as immediately apparent.
Strengthen your personal commitment to yourself, which is the core of integrity.
- 15:32 Ben: It’s so important. In the example Sean was just giving, for the person who says, “If it’s just me, it’s okay,” that really is the most important aspect of your reputation—your personal integrity.
- 15:50 Sean: It’s the hardest one to get. That’s why I like grouping them together, this threefold commitment. If you want to do something, you say publicly, “I’m going to work out. I’m going to go to the gym every day, this many days of the week,” or whatever. Then you get a partner for accountability. Commit with them, go with them, and check in with them. Lastly and not least, you make a commitment to yourself. It seems silly, because you think, “That’s not going to get me out of bed.” Make the commitment to yourself, because you will follow through based on those other two stronger commitments, but as a side effect, your personal commitment will be strengthened. Your word to yourself means more.
Building Personal Integrity
- 16:55 Ben: For the person who feels like, “I really want to develop my personal integrity,” I wanted to share my personal experience with integrity, the weight of my word, and some of the struggles I’ve had with that. It’s important for you, listener, if you feel like you’re on the side of having low integrity or poor follow through, not to beat yourself up over that. There are habits and a number of external factors that come into play, and there are a number of things you decide and choose personally that bring you to where you are today. I want to share my story and how I got to a place where I had pretty low personal integrity, and some of the things I’ve been doing to build that.
- 17:52 When I was growing up, when I was pretty young, my parents divorced. Both my mom and dad remarried, so I had a step mom and a step dad. I can’t say for sure that it was that specific situation or maybe it was part of my personality, but I’ve always been a people-pleaser. I think some of that comes from the relationship I had with my step parents. With my step mom, for example, when I was with her and my dad, I wanted my step mom to fill the role of mother. I wanted that connection, that relationship. Any time I felt that there was disappointment, frustation, or any kind of disconnection, I would get really scared and insecure, because as a kid, I wanted that connection with a mother figure.
- 18:55 When I was put in a situation where I had to either make a promise or something was asked of me, my response was to try to give the best news possible because that would please my step mom. In my mind, that would strengthen that connection and she would be happy with me. I was not really thinking about whether I could actually follow through with this. In that moment, I wanted so badly to have that kind of relationship and connection that I said the best thing that I could.
- 19:32 Sean: Ben, that resulted in making commitments you might not be able to follow through on.
- 19:39 Ben: Yes. This was a rhythm I got into as a young person, and I started to do that with other areas of my life. In some cases, it was actually the relationship, but in other cases, I was projecting my fear of not having acceptance from this person onto other people in my life who really did accept me, but I wasn’t allowing myself to believe that. I built up this framework for myself, where in order for me to feel accepted, I had to make those kind of promises. That became a habit, and it also taught me that my word didn’t mean much. I saw myself consistently not following through with things.
Not following through damages relationships more than saying something disappointing that’s in line with reality.
- 20:53 Sean: But, immediately, upfront, sharing the better news feels safer and happier, more positive.
- 21:04 Ben: In my relationship with Rachel, it was that way for a long time. I carried all of that stuff in. It happens in a relationship all the time that you have to be the bearer of bad news in some form or another, so I was constantly faced with the opportunity to put a positive spin on it or be realistic. I dipped my toe in a couple of times, and I started learning that when I’m more realistic and I don’t over-promise, there may be some discomfort and disappointment, but ultimately, that person still loves and accepts me. Rachel still loves and accepts me, she just feels frustrated right now. She feels upset, but in the long term, the relationship is better off. Now, as I tell her the truth and allow her to hear the disappointing news, she knows she can trust what I have to say.
- 22:23 Sean: Which bolsters your reputation.
- 22:27 Ben: And on the other side, if I continue to try and give the best news possible, not only would she stop trusting what I say but she would hear what I say, know the news is probably worse, and still feel frustrated and sad. There would still be the downsides, plus this additional downside of now not having trust.
- 22:55 Sean: I’m sure a lot of people are in similar situations, even if it’s just with their audience. Maybe the update on the project is that it won’t be delivered on time, when you said it was, and you might think that sugarcoating that and saying good things until it’s finally too late is better. Right now, you don’t have to deal with it. You can hit the snooze button on it, but it may be better for your reputation to deliver the bad news and take the hit. Now, everyone’s on board and you can build from there and get past it instead of pushing it away and pushing it back.
- 23:40 Ben: You can recover from not delivering on a deadline or not meeting the expectations that were originally set if you communicate and you’re honest. You may not be able to recover in that relationship, but your reputation remains intact. At the very least, that client remembers, “This project went eight weeks when they said that it would go four weeks, and that was frustrating, but they were really honest with me through the whole process. They told me where things were and explained what was going on. I appreciate that, even though I would have liked to have had this done four weeks earlier.” That’s good. That’s way better than, “They said they were going to deliver it at four weeks, and at six weeks I had to send them a message. I didn’t hear from them, and then they gave me some excuse. I don’t know what happened.”
Long Term Benefits of Integrity
- 24:42 Sean: It could even be an overall positive thing, in the really long run, to have that bad news negative experience that’s recovered and built up from. In the short term, it’s obviously best to have totally smooth sailing, a perfect project where everything goes completely right and your reputation is intact. They’re happy and they move on. In the super long term, they’re really only seeing one facet of you, your reputation, and your integrity. When a problem is introduced into the scenario, much like any TV show, if nothing bad or interesting ever happens, you don’t get to see the different facets of the characters and their personality, integrity, or lack of integrity.
When you acknowledge something that isn’t ideal, it can present an opportunity for demonstrating your integrity.
- 25:52 It’s not an ideal situation, but you are able to demonstrate to this client or this person how you overcome it and how seriously you treat this problem. Maybe, in the future, they have a really big project they’re going to do, and they’re not so naive to think this 6 or 18 month project is going to go totally flawlessly. They know that there are going to be bumps in the road, and they’re looking for someone to handle this who has integrity. Maybe they know that about you because they’ve gone through a few bumps in the road, just like in any relationship, especially romantic relationships. The reason you’re close is not because everything has been roses and perfection—it’s because you’ve gone through things and overcome them together.
- 26:43 Ben: Going through conflict together and coming out the other side, even if compromises have to be made or somebody had to make up for it in some way, leaves a closeness there. It has this way of drawing the two together as opposed to separating them. Honesty and communication is the big thing there. For the person who struggles with this, both personally and in business, the practical thing here is to get really good at recognizing those forks in the road when you’re presented with the opportunity to either give bad news or make a commitment that you know you can’t make. You’re presented with this option—”I can either tell this person what they want to hear so they’ll like me, or I can tell them the truth.”
- 27:58 When you recognize those moments, pause. I had to realize for myself that, when faced with those moments, I felt the pressure to give an answer right away. You don’t have to do that. It’s okay to say, “Let me think about that and get back to you.” You don’t have to give a reason. Recognize that moment for what it is, and then make a conscious decision to tell the truth. Think about how you want to present that, too. It doesn’t have to be really harsh.
When you take a step back, you can be creative about the way you share difficult truth so you preserve that relationship and honor the other party.
Rethink Your Words
- 29:02 Sean: So far, we have mostly been discussing reaction, and I want to talk about proaction. Maybe it isn’t so much about how you handle a bad situation, but it’s about the desire to create good situations or over-commit. I see a lot of people who are doing a daily video or a weekly blog, and with what’s on their plate, it’s not really possible or sustainable. They want that positive reaction and they want people to think good of them, so they make a commitment. “I’m going to start doing this!” They get that shot of dopamine, and people are cheering them on. They kind of already know in the back of their minds that this isn’t something they can commit to or sustain.
- 29:55 Ben: What was the bullet point I gave you, Sean, that we didn’t really open up?
- 29:59 Sean: Idealism—what did you mean by that, Ben?
- 30:04 Ben: This is exactly the problem, thinking you can do something and being so excited about the idea of doing something that you don’t consider the cost. You’re blind to the actual cost of doing that thing, so you make a commitment to do something you really can’t sustain. That’s what I meant by “idealism.”
- 30:38 Sean: I want people to think about the weight of their word. I want them to carry themselves as if their words are heavy, as if they have weight and meaning, as if everything they say is a form of personal commitment. A lot of people are loose with their words. They say things to make people feel good, they commit to things they can’t deliver on. In different contexts, they might say completely opposite things to make people happy. What if we considered that everything we’re saying, in all contexts, could or would be shared or logged? Whether it’s over iMessage, a tweet, or an in person conversation that wasn’t being recorded, what if everything was being transcribed? What if every word you spoke, wrote, or typed was logged? Someone could search through your entire life’s history of all of your words. How would you feel about that? How does that look and what does it say about you? That speaks to your integrity.
- 32:04 Ben: There are a lot of conversations that wouldn’t happen, in a good way.
- 32:11 Sean: I don’t operate this way, but I want to. I know that I have contexts and that I say certain things in certain contexts. Right now, Ben and I are talking with the expectation that all of these words will not only go out to thousands of people in audio form, but they will be transcribed. They will be written and searchable. We understand that context. When we’re meeting over coffee, talking with friends, or texting, it’s a different context. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be detrimental if we’re disrespecting that. If we aren’t giving our words weight in every context because we don’t expect them to be shared, we might think, “Oh, if I commit this thing to this person and don’t follow through on it, only they’ll be disappointed. No one else in this other circle will really know.”
We have different reputations in different contexts.
- 33:19 Ben: That sounds a little bit like gossip. It has the same kind of feeling. Sean’s saying that you shouldn’t speak of another party among a closed group of people in a way you wouldn’t speak of them to their face.
- 33:43 Sean: Certainly that, but even more so on the commitment end. I think a lot of people are making commitments in a certain context and they’re weighing the risk of not following through on that commitment based on the damage it will do in that context. “It’s only my reputation with these people.”
- 34:06 Ben: That goes back to the personal integrity thing. You widen that circle as much as you want to, and the smallest circle is you. That’s the most important place to keep your commitment, but then you widen the circle a little bit to include your close friends. Maybe you have another circle over here with your business associates. You widen the circle even more, and you’re talking about your audience. The narrower that circle is, the more important it is to keep those commitments.
- 34:47 Sean: It’s naive to think, “It’s just in this closed circle,” a closed context.
- 34:56 Ben: It determines your future behavior.
When you break a commitment to yourself, you make it okay to break commitments to other people.
- 35:14 You may not think that on a conscious level, “I guess I didn’t follow through, so it’s okay for me to break this commitment to other people,” but it’s so much harder to keep your commitments to other people when you’re consistently breaking commitments to yourself.
Commitments & Selfishness
- 35:32 Sean: I know this is heavy. Ben and I talked about this beforehand, and I do want to bring this around to your business and how you treat your audience. As Ben mentioned, it all starts with how you deal with this personally. It all spills outward. That’s what you have to come back to. We can’t just talk about how to shape your business reputation, because that message can be misconstrued. People might say, “Your brand is what people see, so you need to shape that, and it doesn’t really matter what you do at home, outside the office, or unrelated to your business.” It all spills over.
- 36:20 Cory Miller shared a story, and I asked him if I could share this on the show. He said yes. Cory Miller says, “When I first moved to California, my brother and I had a habit of showing up to events or commitments 10-15 minutes late. After a while of this, we became known (literally) as ‘The Late Brothers.’ People would say, ‘4pm for everybody but Cory and Jesse, you guys get here at 3:45,’ because they knew we’d be late. I hated that reputation, and decided to fight that label and push back. Now I loathe being late, and try the hardest I can be to be on time or early. I want to be known as someone who is reliable, not chronically late. Being chronically late is not cute or ‘just a thing you do,’ it’s rude and disrespectful.”
- 37:11 Ben: Rachel and I have actually had this conversation before where we’re running late to something. This goes back to me being a hypocrite. I’ll have a meeting with a client, and a lot depends on that. It could be my livelihood or my ability to pay my mortgage that month. I’m giving importance to that, so I’m going to be on time to that. There’s no question in my mind. If I’m not going to be on time to that, there better have been some major thing that kept me from getting there, because it’s really important.
- 37:56 Then we’re going to go to church on Sunday morning, and the service starts at 9am. If we get there at 9:10am or 9:15am, we’ve got six kids, and people understand. For my personal integrity, thinking about it that way is so harmful. I’m basing whether or not to keep a commitment on what reward there is, what kind of value I get out of it. That’s really selfish.
- 38:39 Sean: Garrett in the chat says that he stood outside in the rain for 20 minutes yesterday because his coworkers are chronically late. His coworkers are late, why? It could be a myriad of reasons, but if we look at the results, they made Garrett stand in the rain. Whether or not they knew that, it doesn’t matter, because they don’t care. It boils down to this—they prioritize hitting snooze one more time, taking their time, or stopping for coffee, because, “It doesn’t really matter if we get there right on time, when we said we would.” As a result, Garrett stood in the rain.
When people don’t keep their commitments, they do so because they’re selfish.
- 39:30 Ben: They’re not selfish enough. The more selfish thing to do is to realize how valuable your word is to yourself, that you should keep commitments that you make regardless of how it affects other people. It doesn’t matter whether or not I might have a coworker waiting out in the rain. What matters to me is that I said I’m going to be there at a certain time, and I’m going to be there.
- 40:05 Sean: I agree with Ben, but I think the hierarchy of importance is, number one, that it matters to you that you said you’re going to be there. That’s for yourself—you need to keep commitments to yourself. Secondly, it matters that, as a result of your actions, Garrett is standing in the rain. Third of all, it matters that you wanted to hit snooze or get coffee. In other words, it doesn’t matter. It’s the least important. If you can make a commitment to yourself and hold it, that fixes all the other problems. Maybe a stepping stone to getting there is realizing that you need to prioritize Garrett standing in the rain over your coffee or hitting snooze.
- 40:52 We all know people who are late. They’re always late. Sometimes, they’re consistently 10 or 15 minutes late, like Cory was. Sometimes, they are fashionably late, like an hour. They have a reputation for it, and maybe they like it. Who knows? We all know these people, and we also know people who are on time. I was telling my brother, Cory, that I had a meeting with someone, and something that I like about this guy is that I know he’s going to be on time. Because of his reputation, his personality, the expectations he sets, and the way he operates and conducts himself, I know he will be on time. I love Matt, but I don’t know if Matt’s going to be on time. I don’t mind being objective about that. He knows, I know.
- 42:06 Ben: Sean, do you know if I’m going to be on time?
- 42:08 Sean: No. I know Ben will be 10 to 15 minutes late. It’s difficult. From Ben’s perspective, maybe it seems like it’s okay and it works out, because we end up starting on time and everything works. It’s just like showing up to other things. “We get there, we still hear the message and see the people, and it’s all fine.” It seems like it’s fine, but whether you realize it or not, everyone else has to work around you. They have to stand in the rain. They have to wait until the last minute and scramble. They have to not have that pre-meeting time preparing for the next day, because everything is lagged. There are all these little, imperceptible details that you don’t know.
Being On Time
- 42:52 I’ve noticed that the people who are consistently on time, a lot of whom are military people, consider being on time to be late. They consider early to be on time. Being late is out of the question. You’re not late, or you’re dead. Being on time is late, being early is on time. Why don’t people like to be early? Probably because they’re selfish. I’ve also noticed that people think, “What if I’m early? What if I show up at 6:45pm, and it’s a 7pm thing? My time is important. What will I do with those 15 minutes? I’ve already browsed Twitter and Facebook. I’m so important, I’m just going to have to sit there.”
- 43:50 It’s so strange, because the people who are late and selfish are thinking, “I’m going to waste 15 minutes of my time if I’m early.” Aim for 6:45pm, you’ll probably be on time because if you aim for 7pm and you’ll show up at 7:15pm. Let’s just say you get there at 6:45pm, what’s the worst case? The worst case is that you’re alone with your thoughts for 15 minutes, and that scares a lot of people to death.
- 44:19 Ben: I actually really like that.
- 44:21 Sean: That’s good! You should. That is the most valuable time for me ever. Quiet time, beanbag time. Some people meditate. It looks like unproductive time to other people, because everyone’s busy, and if you’re not busy you’re not important, but I think the most important people understand the importance of that quiet reflection time. How much better would your life and your reputation look if you were early to everything and you got 10 minutes of reflection time? Most of us can’t last 10 seconds without pulling out our phones. What if, when you had a gap, when your partner went to get a drink in the middle of your Netflix show, you didn’t fill your time? It’s a serious problem.
We fill every minute of our time with smart phones and distractions because we’re afraid to be alone with our thoughts.
What if you used that time reflecting on your life?
- 45:24 Ben: What if you used that time to prepare for the meeting you’re about to have, and because of that, you’re able to be more present and you and the person you’re meeting with get more out of it? Sean, I’m sorry for making you wait in the rain.
- 46:08 Sean: Trust is something you earn by following through with your words over, and over, and over, and over. What is the value of trust? What is the value of reputation? What is the weight of your word? What is the value of your yes? “Yes, I will be there. Yes, I will be on time. Yes, I will help you move. Yes, I will commit to showing up every day. Yes, I will publish on time. Yes, I will meet you for coffee.” What is the value of your yes? How often do you deliver? How often do you follow through? I want to make it a goal for me that my yes means something to people.
- 46:58 I know I have to earn that. One, by saying a lot of nos, to make sure the yeses I do give are serious. Two, I need to deliver and follow through consistently. If I want people to have expectations of me, I need to let them have that experience multiple times. One time could be a fluke. “Oh, maybe you thought we were starting early. That must be why you’re on time.” You have to do it multiple times for people to go, “I think he’s really serious.”
- 47:35 Ben: I go back to the metaphor of cleaning the room. It does take more time, a lot of time, and it’s tedious work. Rebuilding a reputation and rebuilding trust is tedious work, so you should expect that. Know that it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s something about looking for those opportunities and putting yourself in a situation where you can deliver and build trust. Part of that is being realistic with yourself. When you’ve got a relationship with a client and there’s something you know you can do for them in a certain amount of time, maybe it’s just a small thing, but if you believe you can use that as a building block for trust then it’s worth making that commitment. Take advantage of opportunities to build trust with your clients.
Over-Promising & Under-Delivering
- 48:42 Sean: On the note of doing something for a client, maybe you recognize a way that you could go above and beyond, under-promising and over-delivering. Instant gratification is something we all struggle with, and we want the benefits and reward of something sooner rather than later. Part of that reward is getting the feel-good response of saying, “I will do this for you.” They get a smile on their face for just a moment, and you feel good about yourself. You get a little bit of that reward, but now you’ve promised something and you have to deliver.
- 49:27 What if you delayed that gratification, and instead, you recognize an opportunity to go above and beyond? You don’t commit or over-promise, but you over-delivered. You promised something. Don’t under-promise to a fault, but under-promise and over-deliver, rather than the opposite, which gives you all the benefit upfront but harms your reputation in the long run.
- 50:02 Ben: If you’re at the beginning of the process with a client, and you’re estimating that the amount of time it’s going to take you to finish a project is four weeks, you’re thinking, “I could tell them four weeks and I could probably get it done in four weeks, and they would probably like that. I’d feel better if I told them six weeks, and they’ll still probably be okay with that. It would be even better if I told them eight weeks, and then got it done in half the time.” Even if you got it done in six weeks, that would be awesome. Worst case scenario, they’ll hear you say eight weeks and say, “We need it done sooner, we’ll go with somebody else.” You have this thing going on in your head, and you haven’t even presented it to the client before you’ve decided how they’re going to respond to it.
- 51:02 I’ve been surprised by the times I’ve way overestimated how long something was going to take and how the client responds to that. Most of the time, they don’t really know. All they have is an idea or what they think is common for whatever it is you’re doing for them, but if you speak with confidence and you establish yourself as the professional in that relationship, you can say, “This is how long it’s going to take.” Make it matter of fact and present it confidently, and most of the time, they’re going to accept it.
Your clients may not like it if you project a long time frame, but they’re going to love it if you deliver in a shorter amount of time.
- 51:58 Sean: Over the course of the 236 episodes of this show, as I’ve come out of actively doing client work, I’ve found myself more and more in the role of client. I’m hiring people and working with people on projects, and being a professional and knowing what the responsibilities should be makes me a really good client. I’m setting it up, giving them the layup for them to dunk it. I’ve found myself in the client role more and more, and I remember the fears I had as a professional of what the client would think. As I’ve assumed the role of client, I’ve seen the other side, and I understand the mindset the client is in. Let’s say you and I are working together and I am the client. I want a confident expectation set. I want you to tell me how long it’s going to take. I care about the results, and I want you to handle the process and do a good job.
- 53:15 I honestly don’t care about the time. Some clients are rushed, so this is a blanket statement that isn’t to say there are never legitimate deadlines, but I think most clients that care about quality are willing to wait on good results. If they understand the long term affects on their business, they’re willing to wait. I’m less focused on how it should be four weeks because I want it in four weeks and someone else said they could do it—I’m coming to you, because for some reason, I see you as an expert. That’s why I approached you, because I think you can deliver on this. Tell me how long it’s going to take for us to get the results we want. If you say six or eight weeks but you say it with confidence, I’m happy with that. I’m not even disappointed, and that’s setting you up for over-delivering.
- 54:19 Ben: Stop having that inner dialogue with yourself, and allow yourself the freedom to overestimate. Say that with confidence, and trust that the good clients, the kind you really want to work with, aren’t focused on how long it’s going to take. They’re focused on the results.
- 55:29 Sean: We’ve been talking about reputation, the weight of your words, commitments, and following through. In the next episode, I want to talk about when the right time is to break a commitment. Something I’ve struggled with is thinking that commitments have to be forever. If I said I’m going to blog every week, if I said I’m going to do two podcasts a week, if I said I’m going to do three podcasts a week, or a video show every day, do I have to do that every day until I die to not be a liar? I’ve felt that way, because I made this commitment. I think it fits in the next show to talk about the right kind of commitments to make upfront and then recognizing when and how it might be okay to break a commitment. We’ll talk about setting expectations with people, because you don’t break commitments because you don’t care about them.
Because you have new goals, you set new commitments and expectations to align your commitments with your goals.
- 56:45 Ben: In the next episode, before we get into the main topic we’ll touch on when you should make those commitments and how you can avoid making commitments you can’t follow through on. Then we’ll get into when it’s okay to step back from commitments.