The Promises That We Make

I’m that guy. The one in the room that people grin at with a faux smile. Did he just say that? Invariably I did. Yes. Mostly by design. Mostly. A tactical provocation to draw people from a meeting malaise or debilitating bouts of marketing Tourettes.

I know words.

I have the best words. Apart from those last ones. They’re owned by someone else. Ironically he doesn’t actually have many words. As I’ve (im)matured I’ve more consciously considered how I can be playful with language in professional contexts. I think it’s an important juxtapop <cough>. Jucstapozit <sneeze>. Thing to do. With one notable exception. I never mess around with my promises.

I keep promises.

I make promises with confidence. I have considered them in my head before my mouth takes over. I keep them because I find the burden of an unmet promise suffocating. Unbearable. The workplace looks for this commitment from its leadership. How else can organisations thrive unless trust is the heartbeat of every exchange.

My first act as CEO, aside from a mandatory reduction in toilet paper strength from three ply back to single, was to ensure that Inlight’s relationship with promises was irrefutable. It has to start with the Leadership Team.

The challenge? To create something visible that we couldn’t wriggle free of.

A Leadership Promise that we took back to the team:

  1. We will listen carefully so that we understand fully, remaining open minded about new perspectives, approaches & technologies.
    Which means: Vanilla Ice is a prophet. “Stop! Collaborate and Listen!”
  2. We will make decisions based on data and facts, as well as insights gained from past experience.
    Which means: Guessing sucks. Someone’s done something like this before. Somewhere. Let’s find it.
  3. We will fully commit to our decisions, even in cases where we've shared a conflicting personal opinion.
    Which means: Arguing’s great. Until your veins pop out of your neck. Then it’s time to jump onboard.
  4. We will focus our actions, making intentional progress towards our shared goals within the promised timeframe.
    Which means: Get the shit done when you said you’d do the shit. Or similar words, with less vulgarity.
  5. We will leave our clients & team feeling better after every engagement.
    Which means: There is no substitute for being a decent and mindful human being. Even if it scares the pants off of you, the best response is always "how can I help?"

We've shown great progress. Focusing on our behaviours has helped enormously. But the habit of revisiting them regularly is a note I write to myself. Like any lean, high-performing culture we need to be obsessive in the way we learn balanced with a respect for who we are and where we're at. And so we've started working with OKRs for the first time too. I like the gentle reminder of accountability and commitment that they nurture.

Lasting relationships are formed through our unflinching commitment to promises. Our best work emerges from the incubator that trust creates. A promise is trust’s best friend. They’re never far away from each other.

Digital is whipping the rug out from under the status quo and exposing the dirty crumbs and hairballs of yesterday’s corporate belief systems. An increasingly transient workforce has no desire to feed from the discarded titbits and broken promises that other people leave behind. Nor should they. Yuck.

I made a promise to complete this blog post. I had to sacrifice a pub night token to the great never ending To Do list in the sky. But I promised and so it’s a token well spent.

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About the author
Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver | CEO

Mark is the Inlight CEO with more than 18 years leading digital product initiatives, experience design and technical delivery across broadcast, sport, media, retail, finance and healthcare. He has a wealth of experience in the growth of high performing multi-functional technology and customer experience teams through strong collaborative cultural foundations.