Keeping Agreements to Strengthen Your Team

Relationships are built on trust and respect, and few relationships are as important as the ones among members of your team. One critical way to build and maintain strong team relationships is to ensure that you are keeping your agreements.

Agreements come in all shapes and sizes. Some agreements are big, such as promising to give an employee a raise or committing to finishing a project by a certain date. Others are smaller, such as starting a meeting at a particular time.

When you don’t do what you said you’d do, your employees, colleagues, vendors and customers begin to lose trust in you. You lose authority with them. They realize they can’t count on you, and the relationship deteriorates. The fallout can range from a vendor’s reluctance to compromise on a project fee to increased employee dissatisfaction to losing valuable clients.

Breaking agreements also creates messes that require time, attention and sometimes money to clean up. The mess might involve you apologizing and rebuilding trust with a key employee. It might be a situation that requires other members of your team to properly address, such as working overtime to get caught up on a project to avoid losing an unhappy client.

You Pay the Biggest Price

Members of your team aren’t the only ones affected when you fail to keep agreements. You stand to lose the most of all, because every agreement you make is one that you first make with yourself.

When you make a commitment to do something and then don’t follow through, you learn to distrust yourself. You lose faith in your ability to produce a result, which impacts your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect. You undermine your sense of personal power and integrity.

Even breaking small agreements can negatively impact you. When you hit the snooze button instead of getting up at 6:30 a.m. to exercise before work, you create confusion and self-doubt in your unconscious mind.

How Many Agreements Do You Break?

In my seminars, I ask participants to agree to a list of 15 ground rules that include things like being on time and sitting in a different chair after each break. Agreeing to the rules is a requirement to participate in the training.

On the morning of the third day, I ask everyone who has broken even one of the rules to stand up. It’s quickly apparent by the tiny number of people left sitting how casually we give our word … and then break it.

What’s most interesting is that the majority of participants know they are going to break at least one of the rules before agreeing to them. Yet they agree to the rules anyway because they don’t want to be the focus of attention, they don’t want to risk a confrontation, they don’t want to miss the training and a variety of other reasons.

Take a minute to think through the past few days. How many agreements have you broken to yourself or to others? How many of the agreements did you know or suspect you would be breaking? Now ask yourself why you broke the agreements – or made them knowing that you wouldn’t be able to keep your word? Using this simple three-question exercise will help you identify what’s undermining your ability to keep agreements, as therefore, your confidence and self-esteem.

4 Tips for Keeping Agreements

Here are four tips for helping you improve your ability to keep agreements:

  1. Make fewer agreements. Make a commitment only if you realistically can keep it. If you suspect or know that you will not be keeping your word, do not make the agreement. Check in with yourself to make sure that the agreement you’re about to make are things that you want to do, not something you’re doing to win someone’s approval.
  2. Say no more often. Give yourself time to think about a commitment before making it. Consider what you might have to give up to say yes to an opportunity.
  3. Write down every commitment you make. One of the most common reasons commitments are broken is that we simply don’t remember making them.
  4. Renegotiate commitments you can’t keep. Communicating your inability to keep a commitment as soon as you know about it demonstrates respect for your team members. Once you break an agreement, clean up the consequences and decide whether you want to recommit to the agreement.

A strong team begins with you. Keeping your agreements will strengthen your self-confidence and personal power. More importantly, it will demonstrate to your team members that you are someone they can count on 100 percent.


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