Dependability is often the No. 1 quality people look for in the business world.
You may have dazzling talents and valuable skills, but if you’re not dependable, you won’t be successful in the long run. Following are seven ways to show people you’re dependable.
1. Do what you say you will do. If you make a commitment, live up to it. These days word gets around quickly. One broken promise to a customer can turn into a public shellacking when a bad Internet review goes viral. The reverse is true as well: When Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos delivered on his promise to get packages to 99.9 percent of customers before Christmas, his feat made headline news.
2. Be timely. Showing up on time shows people you care. One of the most touching movies I’ve ever seen is about a dog named Hachi who followed his master to the train every morning at 9 a.m. and returned to greet him every afternoon at five. Even after his master died, Hachi continued to go to the train at nine and wait for his master at five, for nine years. A statue commemorates the original dog at Japan’s Shibuya train station. That’s a legendary example of the powerful relationship between timeliness and dependability.
3. Be responsive. When you’re dependable, you respond to requests. While this may seem like common sense, it’s unfortunately not common practice. The Ritz-Carlton set the gold standard for responding to requests; it gives employees a $2,000 discretionary fund to satisfy guests.
Consider the businessman who left his laptop at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. He noticed it was missing on his way to Hawaii, where he had to make a presentation the next morning. Because all his PowerPoints were in his laptop, he called the Ritz-Carlton to have it overnighted to Hawaii for his 10 a.m. presentation.
The next day the Ritz-Carlton CEO was wandering around the hotel, as he often did. When he got to housekeeping he said, “Where’s Mary?” Her co-workers said, “She’s in Hawaii.” The CEO said, “Hawaii? What’s she doing in Hawaii?” He was told about the guest who left the laptop in his room. “Mary didn’t trust that the overnight carrier could get the laptop to the gentleman in time,” the CEO was told. Now you might think Mary went for a vacation, but she came back on the next plane and was greeted by high fives and the CEO’s letter of commendation for her responsiveness.
4. Be organized. Creating order — establishing systems and developing project plans — alleviates problems like misplaced files, missed meetings, lost opportunities and overdue bills. It’s far easier to be dependable when you live an organized life. If you don’t have these skills, find someone to set up systems that work for you and to coach you on how to maintain them.
5. Be accountable. Your actions, good or bad, have an effect on others. If you want to be somebody others trust, you need to take responsibility for what you say and do. For example, I’ve learned to be more accountable about my habit of saying yes too easily. These days, rather than automatically saying yes, I pass out my assistant’s business card so she can see if I have the time and resources to get involved before I say yes.
6. Follow up. Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” When you follow up, you complete the other 20 percent. Sending your team notes from a meeting, sending a gift card to a special client and coming through with information your colleague needed are ways you earn a reputation for being dependable.
7. Be consistent. When I say consistent I’m not talking about the narrow-minded focus Ralph Waldo Emerson denounced in his famous quote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” I’m talking about things like not letting your moods dictate your behavior and not putting people out by changing plans at the last minute. When you speak and behave with consistency, you become someone others can depend upon.