Say what you’ll do and do what you say, it’s the secret to establishing your credibility and enhancing your reputation, explains Helen Monument
The saying goes, ‘If you want a job done well, give it to a busy person’. Assistants are the queens and kings of getting stuff done. We say ‘Yes, of course’ far more often than we say ‘No, sorry – I can’t do that’. Finding the balance between excellent service and our own sanity is often a challenge.
You might be asked to do a project at the office, approached to take up a volunteer role, or asked by a friend or family member to help them organize a reunion. We can get very enthusiastic about agreeing to it in the heat of the moment, without really giving the idea serious thought. Then when we find we’re not able to meet the commitment, finish the job, or meet the deadlines, disappointment, guilt, and self-doubt set in. We feel we’ve ‘let the side down’, that we’ve failed.
Consideration Before Commitment
We all start out with the best of intentions, but let’s not rush into putting up our hands whenever we’re asked to do something. The most important question is WHY? Why do you want to take on this role? The second thing to determine is ‘Do I have the time?’
Volunteering for something is like taking up a new hobby. When I decided to take up golf, I knew I had to invest a certain number of hours each week for practice, so I blocked that non-negotiable time in my calendar. I made the commitment to myself to invest my time in learning the sport. Taking up a role as a volunteer is a huge commitment. You agree to give up your time, a precious resource, for a cause that is close to your heart. If you also have a full-time job, a family to run, and other hobbies, this means having the discipline, willingness, and energy to include volunteer work in your busy schedule.
Before making that commitment, ask these questions:
- What is expected of me?
- What are the goals and objectives of the role?
- How much time do I need to invest each day / week / month?
- Are there deadlines for delivery of tasks?
- Will I be working alone – or with others?
- Why do you think I am the right person for this role?
Take time to consider the answers you get, then do some self-reflection about the role in question, particularly about your motivation. Are you flattered that you’ve been asked (so, is it your ego getting in the way of your decision-making)? Do you have an intrinsic need to feel useful or needed? Ask yourself:
- Why do I want to make this commitment?
- Do I have the right skills?
- Do I have the time?
- Do I have the energy?
- What will I learn?
Discuss the opportunity of the volunteer role with someone you trust. Talk about the role with your friends and family so they understand that you will sometimes not be available for them. Be cautious about taking on too many commitments simultaneously. Consider your available time and resources realistically. Overcommitting can lead to stress, reduced quality of work, and a higher likelihood that you won’t meet your commitments.
The Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering is a two-way street; while you make that commitment of your time, energy, and talents, volunteering offers great benefits for you:
There are great opportunities for personal growth and development. It allows you to acquire and practice new skills and gain valuable experience in various areas. It can enhance your problem-solving abilities, communication skills, leadership qualities, and teamwork.
Making a difference
You can make a positive contribution to your community; many Assistants are active volunteers within their professional association or network and use their passion and energy to help others in the profession with their self-development and learning opportunities.
Volunteering allows you to meet and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. It provides an opportunity to build social connections, expand your network, and establish valuable relationships. These connections can lead to new friendships, mentorship opportunities, and even professional connections that may benefit you in the future.
Engaging in volunteer work has been linked to improved mental health outcomes. It can boost your self-esteem, provide a sense of purpose, and reduce stress levels. It can alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as increase overall life satisfaction. Engaging in meaningful activities, helping others, and feeling a sense of purpose contribute to psychological wellbeing.
Skills development and career enhancement
Volunteering can help you develop transferable skills that are beneficial in both personal and professional settings. By volunteering, you can gain experience that will make you more attractive to potential employers. It also provides an opportunity to explore new career paths, test out different roles, and discover your passions.
Increased cultural and global awareness
Volunteering broadens your understanding of different perspectives and cultures. It promotes empathy, cultural sensitivity, and a global mindset.
Active professional participation
Volunteering encourages individuals to take an active role in addressing professional challenges that lead to positive change. By volunteering, you contribute to the development and betterment of your profession.
Under-promise and Overdeliver
Everyone seems to have very busy lives with many demands on their time. Work, friends, and family all need your attention. Being mindful of how you spend your time and energy is vital to your wellbeing. So, when you make a commitment and are unable to meet it for any reason, it can have very negative outcomes. You can be seen as unreliable and thus untrustworthy, which can cause conflicts. Others may hesitate to rely on you in the future. Failing to fulfil a commitment may result in missed opportunities. At work, this could include missing out on professional advancement, promotions, or projects, as well as personal growth or experiences. Opportunities that were dependent on your commitment may be lost or reassigned to someone else. Failure to meet commitments in a professional setting can also result in disciplinary actions, warnings, or even job termination.
We sometimes overpromise because we want to be liked or accepted, even though we know that meeting the commitment will be a struggle and that other demands on our time may shift our priorities.
If your commitment involves others, such as colleagues, friends, or family members, not meeting it can strain those relationships. People may feel disappointed, let down, or frustrated, which can lead to conflicts or a breakdown in communication. When you consistently fail to meet commitments, it can damage your sense of personal integrity. It erodes self-confidence and self-trust, making it harder to set and achieve future goals. This negative impact on your self-perception can have broader implications for your overall wellbeing and satisfaction.
Integrity and honesty are values Assistants need to cultivate. This comes with self-awareness as you develop your own authenticity. You make a commitment and agree to deliver, but as the deadline approaches, you realize you’re not going to make it. This causes stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. As you try to keep your promise, accuracy and quality may also be sacrificed.
Just imagine you agree with your executive to do some research and present the results in a report by Friday afternoon. Imagine how it will make you – and your executive – feel when you hand them the report on Thursday morning. This will only happen if you make a conscious choice to focus on this task, giving yourself enough time to do the job to the best of your ability. By under-promising and overdelivering, you are enhancing your reputation as a reliable, effective, and trustworthy Assistant while feeling great about yourself at the same time.
Breaking a promise is the quickest way to destroy trust in any relationship. That includes the one you have with yourself. When you make a promise to yourself, you’re putting energy and time into improving your life.
Staring at the disaster area that was my wardrobe, I promised myself that I needed to have a clear-out. But there was always something more pressing that I got on with, so weeks went by, and I did nothing. When I literally could no longer close the wardrobe door, I realized I had to act. I spent a cathartic three hours Marie Condo-ing my clothes. I was absolutely delighted with the result. Finally, there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Being on the receiving end of a kept promise made me feel wonderful about myself, instead of the self-disappointment and frustration I was experiencing by continually not meeting that commitment to ME.
What do you do when you see a webinar or online training offered for free? If it’s a trainer you respect and a topic that interests you, you sign up immediately and the calendar is blocked accordingly.
When COVID hit us, trainers were scrambling to find new models for their content and started offering free webinars. This marketing strategy is a tried and trusted one, devised to ‘reel in’ potential clients by giving them a taste of what they could purchase later. Trainer Diana Brandl says that this ‘freebie society’ has now led to certain expectations and a lack of genuine commitment by those registering, such that a free webinar could be over-subscribed, but only a handful of people actually turn up.
There may be legitimate reasons why you can’t keep your promise to attend, but good manners dictate that you at least inform the trainer so that your place can be given to someone else. Think before you sign up, check your calendar, and block the time. Make it a development opportunity that you don’t want to miss, making that promise to yourself.
Top 10 Strategies to Help You Meet Your Commitments
Remember, meeting commitments is a continuous process that requires effort and dedication. By following these strategies consistently, you can increase your chances of fulfilling your commitments successfully.
1. Be realistic
Agree on achievable commitments that match your abilities, resources, and available time. Don’t over-commit by setting unrealistic expectations.
2. Plan and prioritize
Create a detailed plan defining the steps you need to take to fulfil your commitments. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. If it’s a large project, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks to ensure consistent progress.
3. Set deadlines
Establish specific timelines for each task related to your commitments. This includes planning for unexpected delays or challenges.
If your commitments involve others, engage with them regularly about expectations and timelines so that all involved understand their roles and responsibilities. Don’t go silent if you have a problem and have doubts about your commitment. If there are problems or changes, make sure you address them promptly.
5. Manage your time effectively
Develop your time management skills to maximize productivity and minimize procrastination. Use effective time management tools and techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique (working in focused bursts with regular breaks) or the Eisenhower Matrix (prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance). Experiment with different approaches to find what works best for you. Use your favourite online tool to help you with prioritization, scheduling, and setting time limits for tasks. Set your phone alarm 15 minutes before a call or a meeting so you won’t forget to join.
6. Be accountable
Take responsibility for your commitments. Hold yourself accountable for meeting deadlines and delivering on your promises. Avoid distractions, stop making excuses, and find solutions when you get stuck or overwhelmed.
7. Ask for help
Don’t delay if you get stuck; talk to other team members who can support you to get the task done. Collaborating with others helps when you feel overwhelmed. Finding success is collective teamwork.
8. Monitor your progress
Stop regularly and ask yourself, ‘How am I doing?’ Make adjustments if needed. This self-monitoring helps you stay on track and identify areas for improvement.
9. Learn from failures
If you do fall short of meeting a commitment, analyze what went wrong and learn from the experience. Decide what steps you need to take to make sure things don’t go wrong next time.
10. Practice self-discipline
Develop and cultivate habits that promote commitment fulfilment. Stay motivated and stay focused by reminding yourself why you took on this commitment in the first place, and what your intentions are.
But You Promised…!
When you find yourself at the receiving end of a broken commitment, think carefully about what your response will be. Hopefully, you will receive an apology, but there may be consequences for your project or your team. You should always give feedback to the person to help them to understand how their lack of commitment has affected you, the team, or the project.
You can be sympathetic, saying, ‘I understand, thank you for letting me know’ and leave it at that, but if the other person has a blind spot about their lack of commitment, they are not learning from their mistakes. You could say, ‘That’s very disappointing, can we please set up a meeting to discuss the consequences?’ to help them to understand the impact of breaking their promise. If you lead a team of volunteers and someone goes quiet, there’s probably something wrong and you need to step in to help them.
Keeping your promises contributes to your reputation as trustworthy, dependable, and reliable. This also makes your relationships stronger. Your competence and commitment to getting the job done will be recognized, which increases the trust people have in you. Making a commitment is like a contract: there are expectations and agreements on both sides. Not to be entered into lightly.