What is Reliability?
We don’t often think about reliability. We expect our phone calls and texts to go through in microseconds. School buses to arrive on time. To see our online purchases on our doorstep when promised. Lights to go on when we flip the switch. We assume Schools will be open, Teachers will be in class, and sporting practice and games will start on time. And friends to meet us when they say they’ll be there. If something doesn’t meet our expectation, it upsets us, or even creates chaos in our lives. If the electricity is off for days, or a website is down, or our car doesn’t start, or a friend doesn’t reply to our texts, we get irritated, and then worried. We want an explanation. More importantly, we want it fixed, with an assurance it won’t happen again.
The reliability we expect is something we need to provide as well. Teachers, employers, friends, and family need to be able to trust us, knowing we will respect their boundaries and needs. We create a reputation for reliability by consistently doing the right thing. If we are reliable, we are also in control of ourselves – we can plan, get our work done, and enjoy our free time, without worry or confusion.
If we are unreliable now, if we don’t show up, reschedule at the last minute, make promises we don’t keep, don’t do the work we should, or do it haphazardly, how can we hope to have a great job where we are allowed to work independently or manage others? Or to be a great parent or spouse or friend who people trust and count on? A reputation for reliability is built, step by step, earned by our own actions over time. Here’s how.
- Set clear, strong, and specific intentions for yourself. For example — be on time. Set a specific time (to the minute), the location, and expectation in your mind, or on paper if it helps. This is your target. It’s so much easier to adhere to “I will be in the office, in front of my computer, looking at my first email, at 8:30 a.m.” than simply thinking “I will be at work on time.”
- Manage your commitments. Be realistic. Don’t say “yes” if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to fit it into your schedule. If friends want to meet at the mall later, but you don’t know when you’re going to get out of work, be honest — say “I don’t think I can. If something changes, I’ll let you know.” This applies to taking on more tasks on at work – it’s better to acknowledge that you don’t think you’ll have enough time, or that you need help, instead of agreeing and then not getting it done or doing a poor job.
- Don’t be afraid of having a clear sense of right and wrong, or letting other people know where you stand. For example, spending hours talking about sports or gossiping, when you should be working, is wrong. It’s no different than stealing from your employer, who is paying you for time you are not being productive. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it; just don’t participate.
- Always do your best work, regardless of how rewarding and important, or menial and mindless, the task may seem. If you take pride in your work, finish what you start, and produce a quality outcome, you will move ahead. If you can be trusted with little things, it’s more likely you’ll be given more interesting and responsible work.
- Respect the rules and values. Sure, there will be times you don’t agree with a policy or process, and you have the right to suggest changes and share the reasons behind your proposals. But until the rules/procedures are changed, you should respect and adhere to the rules of your school or employer.
- Help when you can. Teams are powerful. There are times you’ll take on the role of teacher, and other times, the student. Working together and providing constructive feedback, can assure tasks meet the right criteria, and have the best chance of succeeding. You can share ideas, truth, and a positive perspective – energizing the whole team.
One more thing – the only person you can change is you. My parents are reliable in every way except being on time, and it drives me crazy. Nothing I’ve said, and I’ve said a lot, changes them for long. So I changed – whenever we are meeting somewhere I tell them the time is 20 minutes earlier. That small change that I made to my own actions, has made an incredible difference in my mood and in our relationship.
Take small steps, focus on one action at a time, and create a Reliable You.
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