May 2011

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Commitments: Easy to Make. . . Hard to Keep

"I'll get back to you with an answer before the end of the day."

"We're going to have huddles every day."

"Your performance review will be in 90 days."

"From now on, I'm going to follow my budget."

"I'm going to start working out and eating right."

"I will stop hesitating on tough decisions."

"I will be on time."

Your list of commitments can be endless, and whether you keep them or not depends on your thinking and behavior.

Commitments are more than "soft" promises. Commitments are an expression and an extension of your character, honoring what you have given your word to do.

Most often, commitments are made with the best intentions. However, commitments that are not scheduled and supported by a plan of action will fall through the cracks. In addition, when commitments are broken, the level of trust in your ability to keep commitments is compromised and degraded.

Break enough commitments, and you will lose the trust, support and cooperation of those around you. More importantly, you will lose trust in yourself.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to make keeping commitments the foundation that your character and honor are built on:

Commitments to yourself: You cannot keep commitments to others when you routinely break commitments to yourself. This has everything to do with your own patterns of behavior and thinking. If you are habitually late for meetings, phone calls and everything else that is time based, your pattern of behavior is telling you that you have become "comfortable" with breaking such commitments.

If you cannot stick to a diet or workout program, you are breaking commitments to yourself. Even though you do not like it, you are okay with breaking commitments. The only way to change this pattern is to change how you view and support commitments you make to yourself. Jack Canfield offered this simple concept: "99 percent is a bitch; 100 percent is a breeze." If you are 100 percent committed, it is a done deal. If you are 99 percent committed, you need to re-decide every day. That is a powerfully simple mental check to remain true to your commitments.

Commitments to others: Every time you make a commitment to others, you are making a binding contract to deliver what was promised when it was promised. As a leader, breaking any commitment, large or small, is breaking a contract and chips away at the trust and respect of those who depend on your leadership.

Do not make casual commitments that may be difficult for you to fulfill. Do not make major commitments that will overflow your plate and be impossible to fulfill. Do not introduce new policies, systems and procedures that you do not back with the necessary training, support and accountability -- or do not intend to follow yourself.

Remember this: If you would stop doing business with a company that has a pattern of breaking its word, agreements or contracts, employees and customers will "quit" you if you do the same. Commitments to other are contracts. Fulfill the contract or do not make it at all.

Your commitment to your "commitments": Having anyone say, "I don't trust you," is gut wrenching. It is even worse when you say, "I don't trust you" to the face in the mirror. Keep breaking commitments and you will lose your capacity to lead and, ultimately, your self-respect.

True, trust and respect can be regained, but the disruption the process inflicts on a company can linger for years. We are all guilty of breaking commitments. We know exactly when we make commitments that we likely will fail to deliver. We know when we are about to break a commitment we have already made. Here is the most important fact to remember: Breaking a commitment is a conscious decision. There is a choice -- and you can decide to avoid breaking a commitment. However, in order to stop breaking commitments, you need to make a commitment. No compromise.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching salon specializing in the salon and spa industry. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, and his new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is available at For a signed copy, go to You can email Neil at