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Being Casual With Your Word Diminishes Your Power

Ana Polanco

impeccableHow many times in the day do you tell a lie? Some of you are nodding your head yes and many of you are thinking almost never. So let me ask it a different way:

  • Have you ever told your boss or a colleague the project is good when in fact you think it sucks?
  • Did you ever tell yourself you’re going to the gym or an exercise class and keep putting off until tomorrow which never comes?
  • Did you ever miss a deadline and then set a new deadline only to miss that one too?
  • Have you ever invited someone out for coffee and then never follow up only to have them contact you to confirm if it’s happening? Do you do it often?

Every time we miss a deadline, over commit, break a promise, and tell a lie to make someone feel good, we devalue our words and who we are. We lose power, we break trust, and our capacity to lead is diminished.

Our words have power. What you say, think and do matters. Our words and commitments are the place from which we exert our leadership. Commitments can build trust, confidence and power.

If you’re a people pleaser, very social, highly maternal or in a people pleasing business this is especially hard. We all want to give people what they want. It is in our innate nature to do so. And so when we over commit, we not only fail to give people what they want, we also lose power. We are seen as untrustworthy, weak, and powerless.

To be an effective leader you must learn to be impeccable with your word with yourself and with others.

So what’s getting in the way of being impeccable with your words?

Set Realistic Deadlines! If you rarely meet a deadline, it’s because you don’t have a clear sense of how long something takes. This is something I am constantly working on. The trick is to come up with a deadline and then add more days. Most of us over commit on deadlines not considering all the interruptions that will occur along the way.

Avoid Perfection. Sometimes we miss a deadline because we think our work is not in a perfect state. Our work is imperfect so we get stuck and suffer from analysis paralysis.  Sending imperfect work is OK. Nobody expects it to be perfect and in fact building in time for editing and feedback loops is what avoids analysis paralysis. Building in time for editing into a deadline is key. No work is the reflection of one person. We are constantly learning and drawing from the world around us. If you think of your work as a collective effort it will be easier to let it go (Cue Frozen soundtrack!).

Communicate. I know sometimes stuff happens-- an emergency, a last minute situation. If you are going to miss a deadline and you know or sense it, you need to circle back and renegotiate the deadline, keeping in mind that you are impacting someone else’s work. The key is to communicate early and often.

The exception and not the rule. Missing a deadline or rescheduling a coffee should be the exception and not the rule. If you find you always have an emergency or cause to cancel or reschedule, then you have to step back and evaluate. Something bigger is at play in your life. Maybe you have given away control of your life to someone or something else.

Take a breath and listen. When someone invites you to an activity, a board of directors, a fundraising effort, or even a coffee, it is okay to pause, take a breath and listen to what your heart and mind is telling you. That pause helps you make more strategic external commitments. Even when I am sure I want to spend time with someone, I always say something like “I would love to and I need to check and see when it’s possible or if I have the time to take up the commitment.”

Telling someone you will get back to them speaks volumes about integrity and love. It says I care enough about you and myself that I need to check my other commitments. This ultimately strengthens trust between colleagues and solidifies the foundation of any relationship, personal or professional.

It’s a work in progress. Be kind to yourself. Let’s face it. We all lie and we probably do it more often than we even realize. Some of the lies are subtle and some are not. The goal here is not perfection. The road back to impeccability will take time and practice to break old habits.

Your turn:

Si tú quieres, here’s an exercise you can do this week to become more impeccable with your word:

  • Make a list of the ways in which you lie to yourself and others.
  • At the beginning of each day tell yourself I will be impeccable with my word. This includes thoughts to yourself where you may be making personal commitments.
  • At the end of each day, grab a piece of paper and write down the places where you thought your word was less impeccable than it should have been.
  • The next day work on those things
  • Keep making a daily list for a week and see how it goes.

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