Are you a leader who keeps their word? 


Keeping promises is one of those playground skills that follows us right through our lives, into our offices. As we get older, we may not seal our promises with our pinky fingers anymore, but they do still hold a lot of weight and there’s often a lot of hurt when those promises are broken. 

Why are promises so easy to break? 

Put simply, it’s because they’re so easy to make. Leaders, in particular, need to be careful when they’re making promises. There are plenty of reasons why people say things they can’t deliver on: 

  • Some leaders want to be liked by their team, so they make promises to seem amiable and approachable;
  • Others just want to wrap up conversations, so agree to make things happen without thinking deeply about what that means; 
  • While some others have a poor grasp on the resources available to them, so make promises that can’t ever be realistically delivered upon. 

Why is it so important to keep your word? 

The consequences for broken and empty promises can last much longer than you would think. 

  • Lack of trust — if you don’t do what you say you will, how can your team trust you to do it in the future? If breaking promises is a regular occurrence — intentionally or not — there’s a good chance that your team has already lost their trust in you as a leader. 
  • Lack of respect — breaking promises shows your team that you don’t respect them and in turn, they will lose respect for you as a leader. Respect is a two-way street and breaking promises is a sure-fire way to lose that respect. 
  • Frustration — more than anything else, a broken promise means that something hasn’t been done. It means more following up, last-minute workarounds and deadlines being missed. It’s frustrating for everyone involved. 
  • Resentment — depending on the magnitude of the commitment you made, the extra work involved in fixing your failure to follow through means that your team could not only end up not trusting and respecting you or being frustrated by you, but they could also end up resenting you. Team relationships build on resentment are a one-way ticket to a fractured team. 

So, how can you make sure you deliver on your commitments? 

  1. Be discerning with your promises

    Really take some time to consider whether you have all the resources to make your promises happen. While you decide, make smaller promises: “I’ll get back to you in the morning with a decision on the feasibility of this,” means that you can assess the situation and make your bigger commitment with confidence.
  2. Create a culture of accountability

    Perhaps you’re forgetful or maybe you just have a large team and can’t keep track of all the promises you make each day. Keep yourself accountable by recording each commitment in a way that works for you — post-it notes, calendar alerts, etc. The best way to remind yourself? If you create a culture of accountability where your team members have no worries approaching you and reminding you about the promises you’ve made, you’ll always remember them and your team will feel confident in your ability to deliver.

Things don’t always go to plan, budgets get cut, deadlines get shifted and needs change. It’s okay when things don’t necessarily turn out the way you intended but always keep an open dialogue full of transparency with your team. That way, if you need to back down from a commitment for legitimate reasons, they can be made aware as soon as possible and a new approach can be taken. 

Are you ready to deliver on your commitments? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.