• David Strittmatter

Reliability matters -  how to become more reliable

A man who lacks reliability is utterly useless. - Confucius
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Dear friend,


This week I failed.


I had scheduled a short meeting with a founder of a web3 startup and forgot to dial in.


The meeting was late at 9 pm, and yes, I was still busy. But I could have set an alarm on my smartphone, written a stickie note on my laptop, or used any other method to remind myself that I had this meeting.


This incident is still bothering me for 2 reasons:


(1) I had high expectations for the meeting. This conversation would have brought me greatly ahead on my journey to explore the space of web3 and its opportunities from a business perspective. Failing to do this meeting feels like a step backward.


(2) I greatly dislike my own unreliability. Time is the most precious thing we have. I’m very thoughtful regarding whom or what I spend time on and appreciative when someone spends his/her time with me. As I really don’t want my time to be wasted and would never expect others to do something I wouldn’t do, I feel kinda ashamed when I’m unreliable by myself.


In today’s blog article, I will write about why reliability matters a lot and what we can do to be more reliable.


Summary:

  • Whether at work or in our private life, reliability is important. We inherently value reliability

  • Reliability comes down to respecting the most precious resource of people: time. And it’s not only the time of others but also our own time we respect when we hold ourselves accountable to be reliable

  • When it comes to reliability we can do 100 things right and still be seen as unreliable if we fail to do another thing as expected

Practical advice:

  • First, we have to understand how reliable we actually are

  • Second, we should always manage expectations properly. It’s much better to underpromise and deliver a proper result than overpromise and deliver a good to a very good result

  • Third, we should manage our commitments. Being reliable does not mean saying yes to everyone

Reliability matters. A lot.


Whether at work or in our private life, reliability is important. We inherently value reliability. We all value...

  • reliable parcel and mail carriers who deliver on time

  • reliable airlines that take off on time

  • reliable restaurants that have quality food and service


At work, efficiency increases if all employees of an organization can rely on each other. Less time is wasted when multiple people don’t have to wait for that 1 co-worker to come 5 minutes late. And receiving requests on time makes our own work easier.


Research shows that reliable people find and keep friends more easily, forge deeper relationships, obtain better work opportunities, are granted more autonomy at work, and have more self-confidence.


I greatly value reliability. I deliberately choose whom I spend time with, and the more unreliable someone is, the less time I want to spend with this person. Vice versa, I fully understand if someone doesn’t want to spend time with me if I didn’t respect their time.

Ultimately, reliability comes down to respect - respecting the most precious resource of people: time. And it’s not only the time of others but also our own time we respect when we hold ourselves accountable to be reliable.


A minimum reliability standard


We all have a more or less different understanding of what reliability actually means. Often, people we perceive as unreliable don’t even think of them as unreliable.


But it’s not just people who have a different understanding of reliability. While, in Germany, the main railway company “Deutsch Bahn” considers trains as late only if they arrive more than 5 minutes late, in Japan, a train is considered late from the first minute.


I set for myself high “reliability standards” and hold myself accountable for them. That’s for 2 reasons:


(1) I would never expect someone to do something I’m not willing to do. So, if I want others to be reliable, I’ve to be reliable by myself (even though I would never expect someone to match these standards).


(2) As written previously, it’s not only the time of others but also our own time we respect when we hold ourselves accountable to be reliable. By adhering to these high standards, I make the most out of my time.


My reliability standards encompass for instance...

  • always calling back/ answering friends if they need something

  • always being punctual

  • always keeping my promise

  • always sticking to my words

  • always delivering what was expected

Become more reliable


Reliability is measured not by how often we do something but by how often we don’t do something. When it comes to reliability we can do 100 things right and still be seen as unreliable if we fail to do another thing as expected. Whether that’s right or wrong is questionable, however, that’s what it is.


If friends and family tell you that you’re too unreliable, that’s an issue. On the one hand, you most likely don’t understand the consequence of being perceived as unreliable, on the other hand, you don’t even know what it takes to be perceived as reliable.


If people start telling you that you’re too unreliable, you’re not just unreliable but you’re most likely on the brink of being unreliable to a socially unacceptable degree. People will start, for instance, spending less time with you, not wanting to work with you, or not recommending you to anyone.


Probably even worse, you won’t really notice. For example, I love doing referrals, connecting people with each other, and helping them. But I would never recommend someone to someone in my network or to my employer if this person is unreliable. And while I directly tell a person that I won’t do it, for this reason, 90% of people wouldn’t be that honest.


To be more reliable, thus, we have to first understand how reliable we actually are: How often do we fail to stick to our words? How often do we fail to be punctual? How often do we fail to answer a message of a friend? How often do we fail to call back someone?


Second, we should always manage expectations properly. It’s much better to underpromise and deliver a proper result than overpromise and deliver a good to a very good result. I’d suggest underpromising and over-delivering. If you think a task will take 1 hour, say it will take 1.5 hours and deliver in 1.25 hours a high-quality result.


Third, we should manage our commitments. Being reliable does not mean saying yes to everyone. To say “no” more often, we should never commit to something directly but tell people we need time to think about it. If we don’t feel like “Hell yeah”, we should rather say no than yes.

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