Lessons from the kids: lesson #1

Posted by By at 2 April, at 09 : 20 AM Print

David Spark is a business adviser and father. In this series, he examines what we can learn from our kids and how we can apply this to our business lives.

At Christmas time the wife and I loaded the kids into the SUV for our annual family holiday and headed up the Hume Freeway to Canberra. No kid-friendly resorts. No relaxing beaches. No family theme parks or time-out kid’s clubs.

So why Canberra?

To keep a promise. I had said that I’d take our eldest to the nation’s capital two years ago because he wanted to live there when he was older. Getting weird? I know. His cousin was studying at one of the universities there and I said I would take him there to show him what it was like. Obviously the adult video industry and fireworks were not on the itinerary.

So for the past two years he’s been chopping at my ear to keep my promise. The whinging had got to me so by hook or by crook we were going to make it happen. After a lot of negotiation with the wife (I think I owe her big time) we had ourselves a plan.

The other thing to bear in mind is that I had ‘kinda’, sort of also promised that I would one day take him on a tour of important Ned Kelly sites. He’s a bit of a Ned Kelly nut. So I was getting a double broken record.

Finally the day arrived and we’re just five minutes down the road when I smile to myself and ask the kid if he’s happy that we’re going to Canberra via Ned Kelly country. I’m thinking we’re killing two birds with one stone, but he replies, “You also promised me a bike.” Far out! If only we had decided to cycle.

So here’s the first leadership lesson from the kids: Be slow to promise because people are listening carefully. My new mantra is, “Be honest with your promise” or as we like to say in our house, “Think before you stink.”

It can be a sore point in any personal or business relationship if you don’t keep your promises. As one saying goes, “If your word is no good, you’re no good.”

In business, making promises is easy but keeping them is another thing. I think being a person of your word is super important because it can make or break your personal reputation. It’s also an element of your personal brand you have control over. Bear in mind that people may not always remember the promises you keep but they’ll certainly remember the ones you don’t keep.

So you have to be careful about them, even the small ones. As Jean Jacques says, “He who is most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in its performance.”

For example, I said to the kids a while ago, “Let’s go to the park for a play.” At some point the weather changed and we had to stay indoors. I shared the change of plans with them and the eldest piped up with, “So you lied to us.” He got me because in his mind I made a promise and the change of circumstances didn’t mean much to him. In my mind there was logic and reasoning in my decision. In his mind, a promise is a promise and no, he didn’t want to read the fine print. Not surprisingly a lot of people have my kid’s way of thinking.

Take for example the FedEx promise. The company ships more than three million parcels with a next-day delivery guarantee. Fed Ex’s promise is: “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight” and they live by the slogan, “Whatever it takes.”

Interestingly, to keep this promise the company maintains a fleet of five empty planes flying over the American skies each night. In case of additional demand, or if
a plane needs repairs, an empty plane
can accommodate this requirement on call. Pretty big commitment to keeping their promise, don’t you think?

So it’s not surprising that FedEx, UPS and others received flack during the recent Christmas holidays in the United States. They were not able to deliver on time due to weather that crippled planes and delivery vans and an unforeseen volume that exceeded capacity. Like a chorus of shouting kids, the feedback to the delivery companies was, “But you promised.”

The bottom line is people want you to make good on your promises. So you  need to make rock solid promises that you can keep by being genuine and not overextending yourself…

Excerpted from an article originally published in the April/May 2014 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your April/May 2014 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe. 

Leadership Dad, Opinion

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