Mr. Does What He Says He Is Going To Do Man

What do you think of my idea for a superhero? “Mr. Does What He Says He Is Going To Do Man” (In truth, I borrowed this idea from a friend)

Mr. Doer (as we call him for short) has a pretty simple set of superpowers: HE DOES WHAT HE SAYS HE IS GOING TO DO. His say do ratio is extremely high (nearly a perfect score of 1, meaning the things he says he is going to do, he always does).

You can imagine this is pretty powerful—if he says he is going to go outside, he goes outside. If he says he will pick up your mail, he picks up your mail. If he says he will save the earth, he will save the earth.

An important ability of Mr. Doer is that he NEVER says something that he is not going to do. For instance, if he says he will help you with your homework, there is no chance in the world that he will NOT do that. This requires some precision—this means he does not commit to doing things that he knows he will not be able to fulfill because, well, that would ruin his brand. And Mr. Doer’s brand is all about RELIABILITY.

Reliability is a pretty attractive quality (even amongst us plebeians who do not have quite so fancy superheroes). It—the quality of doing what you say you are going to do—is attractive in the personal realm (around friends and relationships) and also in the professional realm (at work).

You have probably noticed this in the workplace but society at large is facing a reliability crisis of sorts. People DO NOT do what they say they are going to do. Reliability is the exception, not the standard.

Reliability is a rather “simple” equation but as is true with many things in life, it is often easier said than done.

The equation—so you know it—is: say you are going to do something, and then do it.

MIND-BLOWING STUFF, RIGHT?

Not to trivialize it but it really is that simple. You say you are going to do something, and then you do the thing.

People get tripped up in both parts of the equation. For starters, they often do not communicate what they are going to do. There are levels to communication, ranging from high level (low precision) to low (high precision). If you keep things high level (low precision), your message is ~likely to be misinterpreted. The more details you can provide (around the who, what, where, when, why, and how) of what you are going to do, the more likely your message is to be interpreted as intended. The second part of the equation—the doing it—is actually _normally_ easier, especially after you have aligned with your other stakeholder on the former (the scoping). But, at least surprisingly to me, people get this wrong all the time. They commit to things, do not do them, and do not communicate along the way. It leads to lots of inefficiencies, miscommunications, and WASTED LIFE.

I was talking to Mr. Doer about this problem and we were brainstorming both causes and solutions.

The notion of reliability often involves multiple stakeholders. For simplicity’s sake, imagine this example.

You ask your friend to get you food. You have your friend who says they will go get you your food.

You have the person saying they will do the thing (in this case your friend). And then you have the person receiving that information (and then setting an expectation around the word of the person saying they will do the thing) (that’s you). Success, in this context, can be defined as you getting the food you want.

Reality, though, often looks UNSUCCESSFUL. Perhaps you get the food you want, but it takes a lot longer than you had anticipated. Or perhaps you get half of the food you want. Or perhaps it was more expensive than you wanted. Or PERHAPS your friend just never followed up and you were left in the dark.

This story may sound familiar. It is not fun for _anyone_ involved—but who is to blame? That latter question: who is to blame? is often an unproductive one because the reality is that WE ARE ALL TO BLAME and we can all TAKE RESPONSIBILITY (so long as we put our egocentric views aside) and recognize that we all contributed to this “unsuccessful situation.”

So what happened? It could honestly be a number of things. Perhaps your friend did not have the money to afford the food. Perhaps they did not know what food to get. Perhaps they did not have the time. Perhaps they did not know when you wanted it.

  • If you are the person who asked for the food: You could have better specified the nature of your request. What did you want and by what time.
  • If you are the person who agreed to get the food: You could have not agreed to doing without first clarifying the expectations. Without clarifying expectations, you are setting yourself up for failure.

We all have to realize that this reliability equation is a two-way street of sorts. We all play a role. We can all take responsibility.

Mr. Doer is a professional at this sort of thing. He always communicates expectations extremely clearly and will never (ever) commit to doing something he does not understand expectations around and does not think he can deliver.

Now does this mean you should never commit to doing something you do not have 100% certainty around doing?

Answering YES to this question would be impractical. What is life without a little bit of uncertainty?

So this brings us to Mr. Doer’s two secret weapons.

  1. Before committing, in situations where he does not think he can fulfill a request, he COMMUNICATES his concern and attempts to change scope SUCH THAT he can succeed. And if the scope does not change, his communication at the minimum aligns expectations across parties.
  2. After committing, if for some odd reason something goes wrong and he cannot do what he says he is going to do (how and when he said he would), he pulls out the silver bullet: HE PROACTIVELY COMMUNICATES THAT HE IS GOING TO NOT SUCCEED TO THE OTHER STAKEHOLDER AND READJUSTS EXPECTATIONS. This is a really powerful tool to again MANAGE EXPECTATIONS.

There is a lot to learn from Mr. Doer.

He is not the flashiest of superheroes but you have to realize how powerful he is. If you are sitting in your office right now thinking, how can I level up at my job, start getting hyper aware of your reliability equation. What does your say do ratio look like? The cool part is that you can implement many of his tactics (and you do not even need to wear a cape like he does).


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