Did you know that leaders that are considered “relentlessly reliable” are 15 times more likely to succeed in their roles? This statistic comes from the book, The CEO Next Door, a fantastic book on leadership that highlights the key behaviors that transform ordinary people into extraordinary leaders. All of the key behaviors are learnable and today we’re going to do a deep dive on how to become a great leader by becoming “relentlessly reliable”.

How reliable are you?

First off, let’s get clear about what relentless reliability means. Someone who is relentlessly reliable follows-through exactly as they say they will. On time, and in the manner they had promised. They are the hallmark of personal consistency, managing both their time and their output to a very high degree. There is no “say/do gap” with a person like this.  If they say they will follow-up, they do. Deadlines are set, and deadlines are met.

So how about you? Does the above describe you as a leader? If not, would you like it to? Well then, read on to discover 7 ways to increase your reliability and become 15x more likely to succeed as a leader!

#1 Set realistic expectations

First and foremost you need to set realistic expectations. You do not want to set yourself up for failure right out of the starting gate. In order to grow and make progress, there’s a degree of discomfort, of course, that we need to push into. But we can’t push so far ahead of what we’re able to achieve that we immediately fail. We have to make sure that our expectations are realistic, and that occurs right at the start.

So often I see CEOs, leaders, teams, and individuals set what they believe to be great goals at the beginning of the quarter, but without taking the time to ask themselves if the goals are realistic. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be stretching yourself. But too often, we just set goals that are not achievable with the time that is available. As a result your goals make you feel bad. You fail. And then you take a hit from a reliability point of view. Others stop trusting you, and even worse, you stop trusting yourself.. 

Set goals that will push you and the team and also make sure they’re achievable – in this way your goals become a motivating rather than a demotivating force.

#2 Be on time

how to become a great leader

This might sound like a simple one, but it’s super important. Be on time for your meetings and calls. In the last week, how many times were you on time versus not on time? When you’re not on time for other people, for meetings or calls, it just sends a message to them that you can’t be fully depended on. That your reliability is in question. 

You also compromise the performance or the results you are trying to achieve because if you show up late you’re literally reducing the time available to do what needs to be done.

Take a moment to think about your punctuality. How often do you show up late for meetings or phone calls? What do you think this communicates about your reliability? What do you think this does for your leadership?

#3 Make your commitments clear

Number three on the list is to make your commitments clear. Too often the various topics discussed in meetings are left as thoughts, and are not not translated into clear next steps. When a discussion ends you should immediately ask a series of questions, for example, “What’s the next action here? Is this a standalone task or is it part of a bigger project? Who’s the owner? What’s the deadline? Is there anyone else we need bring into the discussion or communicate our thinking to?”

Without this sort of reliable follow-up, we spend a lot of time generating great ideas, but not enough time generating great results. Clarify your commitments with a simple set of questions, as per above, and the reliability of you and your team will shoot through the roof.

#4 Use a planner

The use of a planner has had a massive, positive impact on my personal reliability. You’ll find tons of daily planners out there. Try some. Pick one. But just use one. There’s a magic that happens when we’re putting pen to paper, and it’s been shown to help us both learn things better and also remember things better, as opposed to using a computer or recording things on our phone. 

I use a planner to improve my reliability by reviewing the previous week that’s just passed and then planning out the week to come. I note the top 3 things I want to achieve in the coming week and slot the work on those things into the space I have available each day. Each day starts with me already knowing what I will be working on and when, which significantly boosts your personal reliability and your reliability for others.

#5 Understand what makes you less reliable

One of my favorite quotes is from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” We’re all taking punches in the mouth throughout the course of a day, figuratively speaking. Something unplanned or unexpected could happen at just about any time. Things that we don’t expect that keep popping up. But we should also take into account the typical things that throw us off our game and make us less reliable.

For me, if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, that’s going to have an impact on my reliability. Because I know that’s going to impact my mood and ability to focus. I know a lack of sleep will negatively impact my drive and motivation so that’s why I regularly monitor and protect my sleep.

I also know that if I don’t properly plan things out, I’ll feel like I’m hanging onto the back of the day rather than driving it. So, per the previous point, I always take time to both reflect upon and plan out my weeks and days. I know that if I don’t do certain things, like protect my sleep and make sure things are properly planned, it can throw me off course and significantly decrease my reliability. 

So, how about you? What are the things that tend to make you less reliable? And how can you take pre-emptive action so that your reliability, and leadership, doesn’t take a hit?

#6 Lend a helping hand

Understanding what other people are working on and what you can do to help is a tremendous reliability booster.

People view you as far more dependable if you’re taking the time to understand their world, understanding the answers to questions like, “What is it that you’re working on? What are your challenges or issues? Is there anything I can help with there? Is there anything I can help you think through? Is there anything that I could help you perhaps delegate to someone else? Is there any way we can make whatever it is that you’re working on a little bit less complex, a little bit more clear, a bit simpler?”

When you’re helping someone in this way, it increases your reliability score. The people you help begin to see you as somebody that they can depend on, someone who can help them become more reliable. And when you’re driving reliability in others, it naturally raises your game to deliver more reliably yourself.

#7 Rate your reliability daily

Last but not least, I highly encourage you to self-rate your reliability daily. If you’re serious about improving your reliability, I encourage you to simply ask this question at the end of the day: “From a scale of one to 10, to what degree was I reliable today? To what degree did I follow through consistently on all the things that I said I would do?”

A score of 10 means you couldn’t have possibly been more reliable. You’re the most reliable person in the world. There was not a single thing that you could have done that day to make yourself deliver even more consistently than you did, to follow through with all of the actions that you had promised, to do all the things that you had set yourself the intention of doing. And a score of 1, of course, indicates the opposite end of the scale.

If you can get into the habit of rating your reliability on a daily basis, you’ll become a more aware of the areas in which you aren’t being reliable, and you’ll start closing that gap over time. 

So remember, if you want to become a great leader then focus on becoming super reliable, for yourself and others. This variable alone will increase your odds of leadership success by a staggering 15 times.

If you head over to my website at Eric Partaker – CEO Coach & Mentor, you can also subscribe to my weekly Peak Performance Insights Newsletter.

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How to Become a Great Leader: Increase your odds by 15 times

1. Set realistic expectations

2. Be on time

3. Make your commitments clear

4. Use a planner

5. Understand what makes you less reliable

6. Lend a helping hand

7. Rate your reliability daily

About Eric Partaker

Hi, I’m Eric Partaker and I coach CEOs to help them scale their companies and themselves, drawing from my time advising Fortune 50 CEOs at McKinsey, my experience helping build Skype’s multi-billion dollar exit, and the over 100 companies I’ve helped scale to date – as well as behavioral science from Stanford University.

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