When agreements get broken.
One of the major differences between Kevin and I apart from his genetic ability to be completely self-sufficient- cleaning his own butt, keeping himself warm in the winter by growing his own coat, and hunting his own food that doesn't require cooking before eating - is that Kevin isn't affected by failed commitments, misdirected performance feedback, and broken promises. If I promise him cat treats tomorrow because I have no more, he really doesn't give a mouse's a$$. However, as humans, we can be deeply effected by promises made with clients, consultants, co-workers and family.
When management announces a promise for new equipment, better software, additional staff, or a new role, and they do not deliver in a timely fashion, distrust, frustration, and anger begin to seed.
A promise made to a client about a deliverable that you don't deliver will create a lack of trust with the ones who pay your bills, and can jeopardize your relationship with the client. Everyone involved with your project needs assurance that you follow-through on your promises and commitments. Showing the team that you are good for your word will give you the reputation you need to keep succeeding and possibly a "let-this-one-slide" when there is a situation where you can't fulfill your promise. Continuously failing deliverables allows the team to label you as the project joke. No one will take your word seriously and it becomes difficult to persuade and influence issues when required.
Delivering on unrealistic deadlines or responding to unachievable promises is a different animal. ( ;) ) If the client or upper management dump unattainable requests on you or your team, then this needs to be recognized by all parties. The client needs to be told what they will actually get and not over promised results. Discussions, emails, and meeting minutes can capture what the expectations are and will be. This is something the PM can use to show why specifics of a deliverable were not met.
For upper management, promising better roles, challenging work, or increased wages for years is a strange form of abuse. I believe always offering a promise and never acting on it is called a tease? This constant offer of promises to employees stagnates performance and kills character. Promises that can't be addressed at work are also probably not being kept at home either.
There are a few hours a week where I make the time to go through my list of promises. Even if I can't attend to every item on the list, my goal is to consistently re-visit what I promised and see what I can do. When you know that a promise isn't going to be achievable, tell someone. Hiding your failure just makes the outcome worse.
As for following-up on Kevin's promise of treats, I get in the car and buy some more. As stupid as it is, a promise is a promise and I am accountable.
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.