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What is says on the tin - Delivers against its promises

“I promise.”

From early childhood we learn the meaning of this short phrase. As a child, it was a reply to confirm agreement that you would do something for a peer. Whether this was a swap of a conker or playing cards or sticking by someone in a game. It may even be sealed with a 'pinky promise' as the two people link pinky fingers as they confirm their promise.

Promises continue into our adult lives. Marriage, a sign of promise to one another. Our money contains ‘I promise to pay then bearer the sum of . . ‘. Contracts for buying houses contain the promise to pay in exchange for handing over the house with the agreed items. Business contracts contain the promise of what will be exchanged or delivered for the money.

A promise is all about delivering what was tabled in the conversation.

At the core of Ronseal’s now infamous slogan, ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’ is delivering against a promise.

Ronseal had placed in the tin some quick drying wood stain. The slogan described what was in there and therefore when you opened and used it, you expected two things. 1, wood stain and 2. that it would dry quickly. ‘I am wood stain and I dry quickly. I am nothing more, nothing less, just a wood stain that dries quickly.’

In this blog series we are exploring how this phrase can help us focus our leadership. This week it is the simple fact that we need to deliver on our promises.

The promise needs to be clear and simple

The beauty of this advertising slogan, that has stood the test of time and become part of our vocabulary, is that it is simple. Too often in leadership we make it complex. We engage others in what we lead, when it is simple and memorable. We often only remember easily up to 3 things. Anything more it is hard to retain. Ronseal had two elements to what was in the tin – quick drying and wood stain. When we lead people, we need to keep it simple and to one or two things. When I work with leaders in coaching, one of the first things I help them to understand is what is the passionate purpose of what you do. We get it down to a word or simple short phrase. For example, Everyday Leader’s is to empower. Anyone working with coaching clients or in training knows we are all about empowerment. Think about the great organisations that you connect with and it will be because they have a simple purpose and focus on it. Everyone knows what they stand for.

The promise is delivered

However good the advert is, it is only if it delivers that you come back for more. If we don’t match what we propose to be, then we create identity dissonance. I discuss the concept of 'identity dissonance' with Andy Stewart, a designer and brand expert, and he talks about the ‘wrapper and experience’ and does the wrapper match what it tastes like? Take a look at the video clip to hear this. As a leader, we need to know our identity, the purpose, values and strengths we stand for and our actions and behaviour demonstrate what we stand for. Andy & I explain more in this video clip

I have become increasingly aware since Covid of organisations that are not delivering on their customer service promises. For example, last month my wife broke down in her car and called the breakdown recovery. She was promised 90 minutes but they did not arrive. When she called at 90 minutes, she was told they would be there in 20 minutes. They still did not arrive and each time she called she was promised a new time that continued to not be met. 5 hours later the recovery truck arrived. Needless to say at renewal this month we switched providers, not so much because of the time, but because they did not meet their promise.

When we run organisations, we must make sure we give promises that can reasonably be met or we set ourselves up for failure and disillusion our people. There is a simple phrase, ‘under promise and over deliver’. When I give people times that I will give them paperwork or get back to them with a quote, I make sure it is longer than I need so I get it back within the timeframe. If you ever look like you will miss a deadline, phone up your client/stakeholder and explain the issue and help them with a new timing. Don’t wait for them to be disappointed in you, create a relationship where they know you are communicating with them. Relationship sits at the core of a promise.

When it comes to leadership, deliver on that promise too. Leadership is based on core values like integrity, authenticity, courage, care, purpose and love. These need to be the guiding values of all that we do. I have a key ring and on it has the letters TNRPLA and they stand for True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely and Admirable. I use this as a guide in tricky decisions to help deliver the leadership values of integrity, authenticity, courage, care, purpose and love. How do you ensure that you deliver on those promises?

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore creating an authentic organisation, then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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