I remember, years ago, coaching Jason, a partner in a Manhattan law firm. At the time, I’d started a company shadowing execs and giving them feedback in real time.
Jason had hired me to help him improve his relationships at the office. I suggested he set up meetings in a 360º manner = two senior partners he reported to, two peers, and two juniors who reported to him. I was to be a fly on the wall, reflect back my perceptions of his interactions, and brainstorm ways he could improve.
He described what he was feeling as having “lost his mojo,” like he was no longer feeling the confidence he felt before joining this prestigious law firm. Driving between meetings, he vulnerably shared he felt people didn’t like or trust him.
In meetings, I couldn’t help but notice people cracking jokes about his follow-up or lack thereof. “Hopefully sometime this year,” or, “better have a plan B,” after asking him to deliver notes on a major case. In the car, I asked why people expected so little of him. It seemed his co-workers had established the fact that Jason could not be counted on. He proceeded to tell me countless examples where he had committed to a deadline and did not deliver on time. He spoke with a certain resignation as if there was simply nothing he could do about it.
He was too busy, overcommitted, and there was no way he could deliver all that was expected of him. The car was pulling up to our next meeting, and I offered to report back if I noticed anything that could be of help.
It didn’t take me long. Jason was a very kind guy and said yes to pretty much all that was asked of him. From legit work commitments to checking with his wife if their condo in Aspen was available in March so he his partner Jack could borrow it, or a referral to a dentist he promised to pass on to the office manager the week before, I started making a list of anything he said he would do.
At the end of Day Two, as we were debriefing, I pulled out the list and made him guess the number of items to which he had committed. He paused and scratched his short beard and said without much conviction “hmm, I dunno, 3 or 4?” I smiled and started reading back all 14 of his promises.
We spoke of the effect that had on everyone around him, but even more importantly, the effect it was having on him – on his mojo.
“What do you think of people who promise you something and don’t deliver?” I asked smiling. Without hesitation he answered, “I don’t trust them.”
“So, you are saying, since you don’t keep your promises, you are not to be trusted?”
We think, by not keeping our promises to others, they stop trusting us; we often don’t connect the dots that we also lose confidence in ourselves. We discussed the importance of having a system to track his commitments. A place to write them down so it would be easy to follow-up.
We set up the becurrent methodology for that very purpose. In our follow up session, a month later, he reported that my feedback had been super impactful. He became impeccable to his word, only committing to what he intended to actually do. And his mojo came back.
It’s impossible, at the speed at which things are going, to keep up with all of our commitments. Having a system to empty what is floating in our head is not a luxury. It is a necessity. Even if it’s done on post-its. Jotting it down will free ram that we need to be present and at peace.
Note to self: buy some post-its.