People ask me all the time, “how did you get to be so successful in business?” Ok…that has never actually happened, but if it ever does I know exactly what I’ll say. I won’t tell them about a book on entrepreneurship I read when I was in college that changed the way I think nor describe to them a life-changing conference I attended where a business guru challenged the way I think. Instead, I’ll simply respond by telling them I work hard each day to be a decent human being. Both in my personal and professional day-to-day routine, being a decent human is vital to success.
How do you go about being a decent human being? If you ask me, all you have to do is follow these 5 rules.
Show Up (On Time)
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Woody Allen
I tend to agree with Woody here, but I’ll take it one step further. Definitely show up…but do it on time too! You may think it’s quirky and cute to be one of those always-late-and-frantic people, but in the business world it’s disrespectful. If you’re running late, then send a text or make a quick phone call to let the person know. It’s common courtesy.
I’ve encountered people over the years who expect me to set a meeting for 15 minutes prior to when it actually needs to start. If that’s how you operate you need to change your game. Instead of diverting your own responsibility, why not just make the effort to get organized and take control of your schedule?
Don’t Say You Will If You Won’t
You’re not helping anyone by agreeing to do something you can’t or won’t. You may make someone happy by saying you will, but they’re bound to be upset when you don’t follow through.
In business, you’ll likely be asked to do something that isn’t in your wheelhouse. It’s okay to admit that. If a certain task is outside of your skill set, just let your client or colleague know that and provide a recommendation on someone who can get it done.
I’m often asked by clients if Punch Bug can help them shoot a video for advertising or marketing needs. I certainly could help, but the result wouldn’t be ideal. My footage would likely turn out like the Blair Witch Project. Luckily, I know talented video experts who I can refer clients to when they are in need of videos. If you can’t accomplish something yourself, find someone you trust who you can refer the work.
The other side of this is when you say you will do something and you just DON’T. This is frustrating and can completely ruin a working relationship. There’s not much to say about this, other than stick to your word. If you say you will, get it done!
Own Your Mistakes
We all make mistakes. It’s part of being a human being. But if you want to be successful and a DECENT human being, you need to own your mistakes. Don’t pass the buck just to save your own hide. In my experience, clients and colleagues are very understanding if you admit your faults and do everything you can to fix the situation.
Here’s what you don’t want to do when you make a mistake:
Say things like “I thought that’s what you wanted” or “not my fault, I told so and so to take care of that.” Both of these are cop outs that only make you look bad. The rule here is simple. If you messed it up, admit it and make it right.
Don’t Assume Deadlines Are Suggestions
In case you couldn’t tell already, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to timeliness. Meetings, phone calls, deadlines. They are all important. If a deadline is set, my expectation (and everyone else’s) is that the work will be completed on or before the deadline.
I find it’s helpful to discuss what exactly a deadline means, especially when dealing with contractors. For some, it’s normal to wait until midnight on the last day to finish up. For others, the deadline is an absolute end date and the goal is to turn in the work before that. As long as you communicate your own definition with whoever you are working with, you’ll be in the clear.
Use Your Words
You’re an adult now, it’s time to use your words. In business, good communication is extremely important. Whether you’re the one asking the question or the one in charge of answering, it’s crucial that you take communication seriously. If you’re not sure about something, it’s best to err on the side of over communication to be sure everyone involved is on the same page. When it comes to day-to-day communication, your clients and colleagues will be leaning on you to communicate well. Everyone’s different about how they rank urgency, but here are a few of my guidelines for day-to-day communication:
- Emails – respond within 24 hours. Weekends are different, but more than likely you can still stick to this rule of thumb.
- Phone calls – return the same day unless you’re told in a voicemail that it’s not important.
- Text messages – usually texts are more urgent, so I’d say respond to these within an hour (minutes if possible).
- Smoke signals – I’m not sure what to tell you about this one. It sounds serious, so I’d work fast to get in touch.
I’d love to hear your rules for success…and your general thoughts on how to be a decent human being. Feel free to share in the comments below.