The most critical factor in building strong teams and sustaining strong relationships is trust and trust is established by keeping our commitments.
Keeping commitments, like all acknowledged virtues, is dealt with by each individual internally and is always a matter of choice. Once made, commitments often create obligations that can be very difficult. It is in this difficulty, in the struggle, that character is built, integrity established and trust forged.
Some recognize the value of certain virtues and consider the implications of their choices carefully while others follow the path of simple convenience. All our choices are, in fact, subject to the level of commitment we have to ourselves - to our own core values and what we consider important. Consequently, commitment to others can never be separated from commitment to self.
Fortunately, we can make it a bit easier to keep our commitments to ourselves and to others. We also have a choice regarding what commitments we will make in the first place. We can often avoid a bind down the road simply by considering the potential difficulties associated with keeping certain commitments. "Look before you leap."
When looking at the commitments made to others, mutual understanding is critical. Commitments should always be explicit. They need to be fully expressed without any vagueness or ambiguity. We can set ourselves up for problems when we imply, or allow people to infer, what the commitment entails.
We sometimes imply that we will do something we are not prepared to do. "Don't worry I'll be there for you." Am I implying that I will be available at any time of day or night for any need that may arise? Are there circumstances that could arise that I am not prepared to "be there for?"
Commitment by inference can be very difficult to avoid. When we agree, for example, to chair a committee, there can be a lot of variance in the expectations people have of this position. We have to anticipate what others may perceive and be prepared to ask questions that can help clarify the expectations. This may take some time. But failure to clarify can saddle us with a commitment that can be very hard to carry.
We can't anticipate everything and there can be many reasons for choosing not to follow through or keep our word. The obligation may be larger than expected or the journey longer than desired. We may lose strength or lose heart. We may fear that we will not do well or even fail.
But those people we deal with every day, the ones that have so much impact on our success, are always watching. The strength of those relationships will be based on the tough choices, not the easy ones. We will most often be judged not by the level of success so much as by the willingness to make the effort.
It may be said that it is better to keep a commitment and fail than to fail to keep a commitment.