Do What You Say You’re Going To Do is an indispensable adage for leaders at all levels to live by.
In fact, it’s a good practice in general for people to live their lives by. It makes a person reliable and someone who can be counted on. Far from being predictable and consequently uninspiring, the leader who is reliable creates a safe environment for risk-taking and innovation. The reliable leader is there to support her/his team while building capacity for continuous organizational improvement by empowering others and sharing the wins, losses, and decision-making process.
Author, leadership coach, and long time superintendent Dr. Gwen Gross was among my earliest mentors. Author of Effective Superintendent-School Board Practices, The Superintendent’s Planner, A Monthly Guide and Reflective Journal, and Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education, Dr. Gross and her team of co-authors were among the first wave of superintendents who broke the gender barrier in school districts' highest office.
She wrote the acronym DWYSYGTD on a piece of paper in her kitchen while we were discussing characteristics that she believed were most instrumental to her success. She credited it as number one among the pithy aphorisms that have since been trivialized as calendar cliches and daily affirmations for leaders to use as inspiration.
To Gwen it was the tool she used to earn and build trust. Her experiences as a leader of leaders led her to the conclusion that leaders overpromise and underdeliver. Eventually trust erodes and followers stop following. Rebuilding lost trust is difficult and not the platform from which the deep side of the pool is entered. It takes a long time under the best of conditions with trust at its highest point for the toe-dippers to finally jump in and join the party. Gwen always found the pool metaphor useful because she observed many leaders drown. And the higher the stakes the more likely drowning happened.
I have been disappointed in my life by people whose actions belied their words, even though I knew their intentions were good, even benevolent. They simply didn’t have the skills or tools to back their words. They wanted to deliver. They just couldn’t.
The lesson here is a followup to my recent blog on being true to your leadership style, your employer, and yourself. Perhaps DBSYN (figure it out) would be a better way to encourage leaders to know thyself.