Your word or a contract?
Back when I went to live with my Uncle Bobby as a kid, I came home with my first report card for him. It was all Ds and Fs.
Without hesitation, he sent me upstairs and told me to wait for my punishment—going across my backside with a leather strap.
When all the crying was done, he kneeled down in front of me and asked me:
“What do you want?”
I was fourteen years old and no one in my life had ever asked me what I wanted. I didn’t know what to say.
“What do you mean?”
We went back and forth about it a few times, and I could tell he was getting frustrated. Finally, he said:
“Son, if you come back here with good grades next time, what do you want me to do for you?”
My own father had never asked me what I wanted. The idea was so foreign to me, I didn’t know how to tell him.
“If by next report card you have at least all Cs, I’ll do something for you. What do you want?”
I eventually found the nerve to tell him that I wanted a pair of Air Jordan’s. He shook my hand.
“That’s our agreement. You bring those grades up and they’re yours. I give you my word.”
And wouldn’t you know it, when I brought home that report card with no Ds or Fs, Uncle Bobby got me a brand-new pair.
I was shocked. I’d spent my life dealing with broken promises. I’d lost count of the times my father promised he’d pick me up from my mother’s only to have me sitting by the window, waiting for him to show up, and he never did. I didn’t even know what it meant for someone to keep their word to me.
My Uncle Bobby showed me what it meant to follow through—to give someone your word and have it mean something—because someone trusted you to do what you said you were going to do.
This applies to almost all aspects of business, but I’ll give you a specific example:
When I became the CEO at Scribe, our co-founders were using contracts with all our Authors. I expressed to them one of the first changes we needed to make was to refer to them as Agreements.
In any business situation, the minute both sides start talking about the contract, the relationship is already shot. I’ve seen it time and time again.
The word “contract” brings up these negative ideas of obligations and attorneys and lawsuits.
But I never forgot the feeling I had when Uncle Bobby honored our agreement.
No one wants to feel let down––to know what it feels like when no one shows up for them.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the words “honor” and “agreement” go together.
When you honor an agreement, you honor the trust another person has given you to act on your word.
Not because a piece of paper tells you that you have to––but because it’s right to do the thing you said you would.