Last year, I was working on building a relationship with a small business owner. It took us a great many exchanges to nail down a time to meet for lunch, and I felt throughout the process that he was not overly eager to meet, despite his willingness. But it seemed to be worth all the trouble because this person would have been a terrific client to have, and I was pretty sure that I had a lot of value to offer.
The date of our lunch appointment arrived, and I was excited to make a solid impression, making doubly sure to arrive just a little bit early. I waited and waited and waited and finally texted my contact to get a status update. He was out of state on a business trip.
Two things burned me at once. First, he demonstrated that he didn't take me seriously as a business person. Second, he never apologized for having forgotten about the appointment. I probably could have gotten over the first thing more easily were it not for the second. But gradually I let go and moved on with life and business. I established that this person—a good man in many ways—was just not somebody I could trust in this particular context. We probably both lost out on an opportunity.
I share this story because the ability to keep promises is something parents practice (or fail to practice) in professional and personal life. And it's critical to building trust in and out of the home. For effective trust-building, the rule is simple: If you make a promise, keep it.
I'm particularly sensitive to this rule in regards to my children. They work daily to extract all sorts of promises from me. Can you make pancakes tomorrow? Can we have "daddy-daughter" time before bedtime? Will you eat your own arm off?
The minute they've gotten me to say "yes" to a single question, I know that I'm on the hook until the promise has been fulfilled. A curse will rest over me until the deed is done.
It shouldn't be any surprise that I'm meticulous about the types of promises I make to them. I hope that by being careful about the promises I make and then keeping them, I'll set an example to my children about the importance of commitment. I also hope that they'll benefit from this lesson in their professional lives down the line.
I don't want to see some poor salesperson waiting for my kids to make a showing. They need to either meet up or be forward in expressing their disinterest in the first place. False promises and forgetfulness have never done in any good in business, and we can teach our children early on to avoid them.