Workplace promises: 4 ways managers can build trust and productivity
Most people don’t make promises they don’t intend on keeping.
August 17, 2018

Most people don’t make promises they don’t intend on keeping. However, research by Donald Sull and Charles Spinosa tells us that only about 50 percent of promises are typically kept. This statistic sets the stage for bleak successful business outcomes. The overarching problem with low promise fulfillment stems from employees making poorly crafted promises.

However, well-crafted, thoughtful promises affect business teams in myriad positive ways. Read on to learn four ways promises can build trust and productivity in your organisation.  

1. Well-Crafted Promises Foster Long-Term Success

Promises that can’t be tracked or measured leave little room for individual accountability. Furthermore, promise management is given little attention compared to other business objectives.

When promises are thoughtfully constructed, tracked and measured, they turn into a powerful tool for creating long-term success. Good promises should be public, active, voluntary, explicit and mission-based.

When team members make public promises to one another, work tasks turn into binding commitments. And when people are committed to a goal that everyone can see, they are much more likely to fulfill that goal. Employees want to protect their integrity and reputation, and they don’t want to let their teams down.

Promise-Based Management uses the psychology of social discipline to create a business environment that gets things done. A major component of social discipline involves making firm commitments to deliver on one's promises in a public space. Social discipline is a remarkable psychological concept that uses social persuasion and accountability to individual responsibilities to meet goals.

2. Well-Crafted Promises Narrow the Gap for Remote Teams

There is no shortage of advantages for companies with remote teams. Remote workforces enjoy a larger talent pool, increased work flexibility, lower overhead office-related costs and increased productivity by eliminating long commutes.

However, as more and more organisations embrace remote teams, challenges arise in maintaining a reliable workforce. It’s impossible to replace in-person communication. Telecommuting employees often experience challenges in developing rapport and fostering trust with their remote colleagues.

If you haven’t already developed a strong relationship and you can’t see what your direct reports are doing, it can be difficult for senior executives to measure a team member’s performance, particularly when individual accountability is unclear.

It’s not uncommon for goals to be grouped by department, and no one knows which team member is responsible for what or who accomplished specific tasks related to the target goal. Managers end up squandering away time perpetually checking the work status of their employees, reminding them to complete tasks and even replicating work that’s already been done but hasn’t been communicated.

Combining Promise-Based Management with the right technology can bridge this gap. There’s no shortage of web-based chat and task management programs available, but most don’t bring teams together and provide accountability and tracking in one place.

It’s critical to leverage the power of technology with software that also allows organisations to track, measure and manage their commitments.

Remote teams can have the tendency to compensate for not being in the same location by having a lot of meetings. If you can’t stop by your co-worker’s office to ask a question, this can easily turn into scheduling a 30-minute web meeting about a question that could have been answered in a few minutes.

Samewave gives remote and local teams the ability to chat and collaborate about promises along with 24/7 access to reports on progress towards keeping commitments. Meetings will never disappear from the workplace, but businesses need to make time spent in meetings matter. When teams are on the same page, meetings become quicker, less common and more productive.

3. Well-Crafted Promises Build Autonomy With Ownership of Promises

When team members work in groups without tracking clear performance measures and adherence to goals, they can't be held accountable for reaching them. Tasks are often forgotten when promises are made privately, progress isn’t tracked and team members often say nothing about it.

Without public ownership of commitments, there is no motivation to fulfill them. The ‘Free-Rider Effect’ and the ‘Sucker Effect’ are common in these types of groups and are detrimental to employee engagement and autonomy.

Free-Riders notice that certain team members will pull their weight for them, and they can easily get away with it because individual performance isn't being closely monitored. In response, the high-performing Sucker employee holds back and reduces their workload to bring equity back to the group. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Fortunately, the negative consequences can be reduced or eliminated by fostering autonomy with ownership of promises. Implementing Promise-Based Management creates a work environment centered around making good promises in a transparent setting to increase accountability.

When employees make public promises that the entire team can see, that accountability naturally creates a sense of ownership around the commitment. Workers gain autonomy over their goals, giving leaders organisation-wide the ability to stop micromanaging and focus on meeting strategic business goals.

One of the tenets of a good promise is that they are voluntary. When an employee isn’t pressured into making a promise, the commitment is carefully negotiated so the employee feels confident they fully understand the promise and is capable of keeping it.

Expectations become obvious with public promises and employees can’t hide from their commitments. They are socially obligated to perform.

4. Well-Crafted Promises Foster Employee Engagement and Motivation

It’s no secret that engaged employees make for a more productive, reliable workforce. Promise-Based Management plays a key role in fostering employee engagement.

What kills employee engagement and motivation? A lack of trust. Distrust happens when promises go unfulfilled. When promises aren’t kept in the workplace, it’s often unintentional — it’s the result of a poorly crafted commitment.

When promises aren’t kept, employee engagement falls and morale decreases. Communication is hampered and trust suffers. If the pattern continues, the consequences of low employee engagement and motivation can have extreme adverse effects on an organisation’s bottom line.

The benefits of an engaged workforce are vast. Engaged employees miss fewer work days, accomplish more work and have better relationships with their colleagues and customers.

The correlation between employee engagement and organisational performance is a proven concept, but difficult for many companies to achieve. The happier and more motivated your employees are, they more willing they are to work towards reaching goals and align to the company’s values.

Companies that practice Promise-Based Management and use social discipline to keep their promises to one another see immense gains in employee engagement. A communal culture is generated surrounding reaching highly visible goals.

Individual contributions are noticed and praised. Team members across every level of the company become more emotionally connected and invested in the company's mission. Employee morale and motivation improve and performance levels climb to new heights.

Making Promises Work For Your Team

Whether your team operates under one roof, is spread out across the world or is a hybrid of both, utilizing the best system to implement promises into your culture is paramount to success.

Samewave is social performance management software that uses social technology to create effective business environments based on results. This software allows business teams to create, track and measure commitments and collaborate on their promises.

Samewave's easy-to-use interface, clear communication channels, robust reporting features and simple task management tools set companies up for success. Learn more about how you can increase employee engagement, communication and motivation for long-term success. Get your team on the samewave today, for free.

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