The health of an organization depends on the existence or deficiency of mutual trust and respect.

In this blog, we are going to focus on the word trust. What builds trust in relationships? What undermines it?

Let’s look at the following scenario. Let us say that I am working with somebody—let’s call him Joe.I don’t have to be his boss. I don’t have to be his colleague. Maybe I am even his subordinate. In other words, there is a relationship between us that we need to work on, and that is all that matters.

I went to Joe because I needed something. I said, “Joe, I need this and that to be done by July 15.”

He looked at me and said, “Okay.”

July 15 came and went. I forgot about the thing I asked of Joe, and I didn’t follow-up about it. And for whatever reason, Joe didn’t deliver. On July 15, nothing happened.

One day, I asked Joe, “What happened?”

Joe said, “I tried. It was impossible to deliver by July 15.” Thus, he did not feel responsible for the failure—he tried. But in the meantime, there’s a big problem in the company.

What were the mistakes?

There are several of them.

Number one: what happens in an organization is not what isexpectedbut what is inspected.I didn’t inspect the delivery of what I assigned, and that is mistake number one.

To uncover mistake number two, let us try to understand why Joe did not deliver. Let’s assume that he said, “I tried. I could not do it. Let me tell you what happened . . .” Let’s assume that he gave a list of excuses and explanations, all of them legitimate.

But, the fact is that Joe didn’t deliver by July 15.

The problem is with the words, “I tried.” Let’s focus on those two words.

I am claiming that the words, “I will try,” or “I tried,” are a sign that the speaker is not totally committed.

Imagine if your beloved looked in your eyes and said, “Do you love me?” and you replied, “I will try,” or, “I’ve tried.” Whoa. You can imagine their reaction. You would be in trouble, wouldn’t you? What do you mean, you “tried”? Are you committed or not?

So, when I asked Joe to deliver by July 15, and he said yes, I felt safe. I believed that he would do what he said he would do. When Joe said, “Itriedto deliver,” he meant that he was not fully committed.

What should have happened is something else.

First, Joe should have checked if he could deliver the product on July 15—not try to deliver but commit to delivering. If he couldn’t, Joe should have said, “Sorry, I cannot deliver it on July 15. I have other priorities. I can give it to you on July 20.”

Now, can I wait until July 20? If I cannot, I have to say, “Joe, what would it take for you to deliver it on July 15?”

If Joe were to look at his schedule and say, “Well, I would have to change some deadlines given to me by David and by Sara,” then it would be my job—not Joe’s—to talk to David and Sara. I would ask if they would be willing to move their deadlines. That, by the way, is called teamwork. They will change their deadlines if they can because the next time theyneed some of mydeadlines to move, I will cooperate.

Now, let’s assume that something unexpected happened and that Joe could not deliver on July 15. The moment he knew he could not deliver on July 15, he should have called me and said, “Doctor, I cannot deliver on July 15. I am telling you now because something has happened. I am telling you as soon as I can, so you might have to make some changes in your plans.”

Don’t tell me on July 15 why you could not deliver on July 15. I don’t want excuses. I don’t want a plea for forgiveness. I want Joe to ask permissionto violate the commitment that he made, not for forgiveness. Don’t say, “Sorry, I ask for your forgiveness,” on the date on which you are supposed to deliver. The damage is done. Now, I am in trouble. I cannot meet my own deadlines because Joe didn’t deliver on time. Now, I have to go and give explanations and ask for forgiveness from other people.

The system of, “I tried,” is based on, “Oh, please excuse me, forgive me.” These phrases are not part of mutual trust.

Mutual trust is calling in advance and saying, “I cannot do it, so let’s see what we can do about it.” That allows you to rely on other people. You know their word will be honored. A commitment is a commitment.

Many people do not commit—they try. They say, “I will try to do this. I will try to do that.” I don’t want to hear the words, “I will try,” or, “I am trying.” Those words should be forbidden in the company. Don’t try—do. And, if you cannot do, tell me as soon as you know so I can do something about it. Thank you.

Just thinking,

Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Founder and CEO, Adizes Institute Worldwide