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Let's Have Some Character; Keeping One’s Word

Keeping one's word. It's probably one of the easiest ways to build credibility and also one of the easiest ways to loose it. Keeping your word is also one of the simplest ways to show character and integrity. Why do I say that? Let me tell you what recently happened to me and how someone, unfortunately, tainted their character by doing something as simple as not keeping their word on more than one occasion.

The other day I was with someone who had introduced themselves to a colleague of mine and I at a function earlier in the year. His name was Robert and the function we met at was being hosted by an organization that I am a member of. I also help to run many of the organization's functions and this particular function was no exception. Near the end of the event Robert came up to my colleague and said he was also a member of the organization and that he wanted to help the organization out. He told my colleague that he had a great deal of experience in engineering and some IT (information technology) background. At that time is when my colleague brought him over to meet me. I help the organization out with operations management. Robert mentioned that he was very excited about what he learned at the event and about all the future events and functions the organization was preparing for. With that he asked if he could help us out. More specifically, in the operations and technology realm. I said that's great to hear and we proceeded to talk about how and where he may be able to be of help.

We left it off with me scheduling an appointment for him to contact me within the next couples of days with an outline of the ideas he was asking my colleague and I about and how the organization may be able to implement them with his help. Robert said, "Yes, I will definitely give you a call tomorrow. If not, then the day after at the latest!" After he left, my colleague told me that would be great to get his help and apply some of his expertise to some of the organization's projects. I said, "Let's see what he comes back with." I said, "I am interested in following up with him on some of the ideas we were just discussing. They sound interesting and his expertise would be a benefit to the organization."

What I didn't mention so quickly to my colleague is that I also wanted to see how reliable this person would be. After all I had just met the person that day at the event. Not meaning to sound negative or unappreciative, but a person's character and integrity is extremely important for me. One of the most basic characteristics of character is the ability to keep their word. I hold my own personal standards for keeping my word and maintaining my character very high. It's one of the reason's many people trust me, I've been told, and I take that trust very seriously. When it comes to other people, I've seen a few too many times when a person "looks good" and "smells good" but are no good when it comes to their own character. All too often I've been disappointed in a person who says one thing and does another.

Strike One! (Keep Your Word!)

That scenario was almost two months ago and in that time, Robert never contacted me. Since that day at the function, he did not call once. He had my contact information and it was easy to find me due to my position with the organization that he himself was a member of. My name and contact information were on the front page of the organization's website.

Honesty is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” - Stephen Covey

A week or ago Robert contacted me apologizing for the fact that he didn't call when he said he was going to. He said he tried contacting but was having difficulty with my email and that it kept bouncing back on him. He asked if we could get together over lunch or coffee. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I mentioned that we can get together for coffee at "so and so" time, at "so and so" place, if he were up to it. I really wasn't going out of my way to meet with Robert so I told him where I'd be when I'd be picking up my afternoon coffee.

Two Strikes! You're Out!!

When the time came for me to get my afternoon cup of coffee, I went down to a corner cafe where I get my coffee and there was Robert. Once I got my coffee, Robert and I sat down at a table and proceeded to discuss the reason Robert was there. I was also sincerely pleased to see that he was there and willing to discuss what he wanted to discuss with me when we originally met. He had a lot of questions about what he could do to help the organization. He proceeded to remind me of some of his skill sets and that he would be glad to use them for the benefit of the organization. After I finished my coffee, we decided to wrap things up and move onto the next step. I told him to call me Sunday evening after 7:30 PM. That is when I was reserving time with someone else to plan out some things for the organization. He appeared really excited to finally start working with me on ways to help the organization.

That was almost two weeks ago. The weekend came and went. Robert never contacted me that Sunday or the week after. As of the time of this article there is still no contact from Robert after he was so "gung-ho" to go and help the organization. My thought now of Robert is that I simply cannot trust him to keep his word. If he can't keep his word on something as basic as contacting me when he says he will, why should I think any differently of him keeping his word with other things.

In an article titled "Keeping Word Never Goes Out of Style", is one of the best definitions for keeping your word that I've come across:

Keeping your word = To honor any commitment you make to another person.

Keeping your word is basically the core of integrity. It's essential to leadership and without it, there is no way a person can be an effective leader.

Why do I say that?

  1. Integrity is required for trust. If people can’t trust your word, they won’t trust you.
  2. Trust is necessary for influence. People choose those they let influence them, and this is based largely on trust.
  3. Influence is essential for impact. You can’t make the impact you want to make as a leader unless you can influence others and shift their behavior.

Has anyone ever who told you one thing and did another? Probably on more than one occasion? How did that make you feel? What impression did that make you have of the other person?

Keeping your word can be difficult at times as well as expensive, and inconvenient. But make no mistake about it, the cost of not doing so is even more expensive. It will ultimately cost you your leadership!


Gil Pizano is an experienced leader and management professional and is currently part of the management group within the business intelligence segment of a major property and casualty insurance company. He has an MBA from the University of Hartford's Barney School of Business along with a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Hartford’s College of Engineering.

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Comment by Marie Castro on June 11, 2010 at 12:37pm

All I can say is WOW! So true! Thank you so much for posting!

God Bless,

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