Reliability Goes A Long Way


Rather than be smarter, faster or more creative, try being more reliable instead.

It’s been a hectic week. Someone I was scheduled to interview for a magazine feature bailed an hour before we were meant to meet. This was two days before my deadline for filing the story.

I contacted my editor immediately and told her I would be happy to help find an alternative interviewee, come up with a new set of questions, conduct the interview, and see to it that she gets her story by deadline, no matter what.

Sure, it wasn’t my fault that the interviewee cancelled. I could have just left my editor to troubleshoot on her own. But having worked as an editor myself in the past, I understand what it feels like to not have the content you need ready when it’s time go to print.

And, I understand the professional and relational value of reliability.

How do I react to people who are never punctual, who frequently cancel plans at the last minute, or who say they’ll do something, but never deliver?

If I can help it, I stay away from them. If I can’t, I’m cautious in my dealings with them. I expect less from them than I do from people who are dependable, and I will probably never entrust them with matters of great importance.

Unreliable people aren’t bad, and I don’t dislike them, but I think of them as individuals who do not have a healthy degree of control over their lives.

Unreliability and tardiness often result from poor time management and an inability to prioritise commitments. People become unreliable when they create expectations they are unable to meet. They cannot deliver because they do not have a realistic idea of their own limitations.

If someone cannot manage their own time and responsibilities, should a potential employer feel confident depending on such a person to manage their projects or tasks? I certainly wouldn’t.

Indeed, in both our professional and personal lives, reliability is a prized, but sometimes underrated virtue. Perhaps rather than trying to be smarter, faster or more creative, we should work on becoming more reliable instead.

When someone can count on you to get the job done well, you are infinitely more valuable than the other person, who can perhaps do the job more brilliantly, but who often doesn’t actually get it done.

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