We make promises all the time….to our employees, to our friends, and to our families. Sometimes we do so without thinking it through. We have the best intentions, but didn’t fact-check to see if it is possible, didn’t ask the powers that be if we could follow through with it, and frankly, sometimes we make promises to get someone off our back: “Sure, Sam, I’ll look into whether or not you can transfer departments next year.” And next year comes and we have totally forgotten about it.
The problem is people remember. Your promises are stored within that part of the brain that hopes.
As I write this, I am painfully away I have made promises I haven’t fulfilled. You see, this coming Sunday is the Super Bowl and the 49ers are playing against the Chiefs. One of my sons is a 49ers fan. He’s had to endure years of disappointment. But now his team is in the BIG GAME. Last week, in a congratulations text to my son, my wife was excited for him and glad his team had made it. In a return text he reminded my wife that I had promised to take him to a 49ers game. That was 26 years ago, when he was 12, and at the time we lived in the Bay area. And then we moved.
My promise went unfulfilled. I had long forgot about it, but to my son, it had been stored in the recesses of his heart and mind that stores hope.
When my wife shared that with me, I quickly looked up the cost of a Super Bowl ticket….the cheap seats were going for $4,800!!! Let me see, two tickets, two seats on an airline, two nights in a hotel, and food for our trip….about $11-12,000 to fulfill my promise I made so many years ago. (Sorry son, I won’t be able to take you to the Super Bowl, and please forgive me for not fulfilling my promise to you)
Our promises aren’t empty words we throw out to appease someone, they are words that give them hope.
As leaders we need to fulfill our promises, because the people we lead will remember. It’s not just a matter of disappointment for them, it’s a lack of integrity on our part.
Leaders, friends, siblings, companies, parents….don’t promise what you can’t fulfill.