How do you learn the art of making — and keeping — commitments? According to Fernando Flores, it takes practice. Here are his principles for practicing commitment.
Make promises as often as possible.
And, says Flores, make them in public, before as many people as possible. "Commitments create solidarity," Flores says. "They make us responsible, and they permit greater degrees of personal freedom."
Ask others to assess you.
You will learn where you are falling short of delivering on your promises. You will also forge links of trust and truth with the people who assess you. You will begin to see opportunities that you may have missed.
Build an "identity," not just a public "persona."
People who have strong identities, says Flores, make personal commitments with such intensity that they would be willing to sacrifice something deeply important to them — and if need be, to die — rather than give up those commitments.
To build a strong identity, a business must focus on the offers or promises that it makes to its customers. Companies know that their identities are shaped by the promises that they make, and through those promises, they develop uniqueness. A brand is a promise: FedEx promises delivery; the U.S. Post Office merely predicts delivery.
Put your body into your promises.
The body never lies. "One dimension that we never observe," says Flores, "is that of the body. We talk about our thinking, our feelings. What we need are more body skills. We need to reach a point when every moment tells us what to do in our body."
A version of this article appeared in the January 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.