The concept of dependability in the workplace can be fickle and fluid. Everyone wants to be seen or described as dependable, but it takes consistent effort to achieve and maintain. Often, your level of perceived dependability is only as good as your performance on your most recent project, never mind the years of previous dependable behavior you demonstrated time and time again.
In most cases, if you are considered dependable, you’re often given a lot more leeway than people who are thought of as unreliable or flighty. People tend to give you the benefit of the doubt and overlook missed cues or small lapses like tardiness because they assume you must have a good reason for it.
The flip side of this, however, is if someone is viewed as not dependable, they are more likely to be passed over when it comes to added responsibilities and, thus, advancement in an organization. Once you wear the scarlet letter of unreliability, it can be very difficult to turn your reputation around.
What if you’re a leader who isn’t dependable?
Dependability, as it relates to employees, is a pretty straightforward concept, but what about when you, as the leader, are viewed by your team as not dependable? The repercussions will spread like a forest fire through your company, leaving behind decimation. If you, as the head of the team or organization, can’t be counted on by your people, why would anyone want to work for you? The short answer: they won’t.
Dependability = Trust
The other problem is that the concepts of dependability and trust go hand in hand. If your team feels like they can’t count on you, the chances are high that they also feel like they can’t trust you. Without trust, you can easily see how morale, corporate culture, and motivation are quickly eroded.
Ten ways to foster an aura of dependability
In our efforts to constantly improve and help you be the best leader you possibly can be, we’ve come up with our “Top Ten List” of best practices that will lead you and your team to not only be viewed as dependable, but actually being dependable.
Under-Promise, Over-Deliver. We’re not saying that you should appear incapable, but it’s good to have realistic expectations and know your limits. Don’t agree to produce a product or meet a deadline that is going to overly stress you or your team. If you know, you can realistically and safely meet a Friday deadline but manage to be ready by Wednesday, this creates an energy of positivity in which coworkers and clients are pleasantly surprised by your ability to deliver early or on time. That obviously feels much better than promising something by Friday but not delivering it until the following week because you overextended yourself and couldn’t get everything done on time. No one likes an OPUD (Over-Promise, Under-Deliverer).
2. Just say no
It’s okay to have limits and to let others know what they are. Telling someone that you can’t do something right now doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all. It does tell others that you can manage your boundaries and helps to set realistic expectations. You can even give people a choice in asking for what they need or want. Saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve got too much on my plate right now to deliver x-y-z by that time. I can either do this or do that. Which would you like me to prioritize?” puts them in the driver’s seat and allows you both to have a clear and realistic vision of what is expected.
3. Communicate probability
This could also be titled “Communicate Early.” Essentially, if there is an issue that crops up that may lead to a problem meeting a deadline or completing a project on time, letting the appropriate parties know ASAP is far better than waiting until you have what you feel might be a viable solution to the problem. Communicating about issues early also gives you more brainpower to figure out solutions quickly and empowers the team to assist. If coworkers find out that you were covering up a problem or trying to hide struggles from them, it erodes their overall confidence in you. Keeping people in the loop and allowing them to stay informed gives them peace of mind and, thus, improves your perception of being an honest, trustworthy leader.
4. Manage expectations
This ties in a lot with the first three items on our list. Often we make promises that then lead to our team being stressed and feeling overwhelmed because we as the leader worry that telling someone we can’t get something done by a certain time will make us look inept or incapable.
Realize that managing expectations don’t only pertain to you but also to your team. You need to manage your own expectations when it comes to what you can and should realistically expect from your employees, not just yourself.
5. Treat small details like big ones
Dependable people know that the devil is in the details. Being four or five minutes late for a meeting might not seem like a big deal, but if it happens more times than not, it plants seeds of doubt in those around you. Delivering reports that consistently have grammatical errors or misspelled words shows that you’re not paying as much attention as you should be. This can create the perception that you don’t take pride in your work, which obviously has a detrimental effect on your level of dependability.
6. Follow through
This is a no-brainer. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. It’s that simple. Integrity is key to trust and your ability to be counted on by your team and colleagues. If you tell someone you’ll email them something, don’t blow it off. To some of you, the fact that this needs to be on the list at all may seem silly, but you know you’ve worked with people who lack follow-through and how frustrating and disappointing it is.
7. Create alignment
Making sure you’re on the same page as your team will go a long way to fostering a feeling of understanding and dependability. Setting expectations or goals and then repeating those back to your team will create a feeling of clarity, alignment, and camaraderie within your company. It also removes the possibility of future misunderstandings.
8. Show up
Not just physically but mentally. BE PRESENT. Don’t multitask while you’re in a meeting or on a conference or video call. Your team deserves your undivided attention and focus. Reminder: see how we really feel about multitasking here!
9. Admit mistakes
You’re human. It’s okay. One of the worst things you can do to erode dependability is trying to cover up mistakes or blame others. Just being upfront and saying, “Hey, we messed up. Here’s our solution…” will go a long way in making your team view you as a real person who is approachable and understanding of the fact that everyone screws up once in a while. It will also help your team to be able to more readily admit when they’ve made mistakes if they know you’re reasonable and don’t hold them to an impossible standard.
10. Welcome feedback
Ask for feedback early and often. It might be tough to hear sometimes, but being open to feedback from your team fosters a feeling of collaboration and may bring you viable solutions you may not have thought of on your own. Feedback along the way will help you stay on track with projects and deadlines, so your organization doesn’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again.
Dependability = Trust = Integrity
We know that some of these steps are going to be far easier to implement than others. No matter where you are on the scale of dependability, there’s always room for improvement. If you need help or tools, we’ve got you covered. Reach out anytime to learn easy and essential things you can do to not only make yourself more dependable, but your entire organization.
Be the leader you always wanted to be.