I hate letting people down, I guess we all do?  But if you are like me, someone who takes on too many activities and always broadens the scope of things to deliver better results, then it will be of no surprise that from time to time I have to let someone down.

A forgotten meeting, a double booking in my agenda, the need to cancel a lunch that sits awkwardly in my planning, these are just the easy ones. When I had a PA, I never really saw the full consequences as it was her sent the ‘sorry’ emails or made the awkward phone calls.

Letting people down can of course be much more serious. Making a promise that one failed to keep, or raising someone’s hopes only to have to change direction later on. These things can haunt one for a lifetime. And the bad thing is that they tend to become more frequent and more inevitable as one rises higher in an organisation.  You get used to making quick decisions and one’s fellow board members are not always in line with your thinking.

The question is, what to do?  Let’s take an easy example. Imagine you have arranged a lunch meeting with one of your juniors. Imagine that your boss, out of the blue, invites you to lunch at the last minute.  Do you tell your boss that you have already a lunch appointment? Do you say who it is with? Or do you just drop your junior and go with the boss?  And what if the lunch with your boss over-runs? Imagine that her next meeting is not until three and you are both enjoying the conversation – do you then dump your first meeting after lunch too?

We need to do what is right and what is respectable. We need to be able to ‘talk truth to power.’ Sure, emergencies sometimes happen; unscheduled dramas unfolding in unforeseen ways, but these things can all too quickly become a habit, if you ask me.

Right now, I am sitting on a train going to meet a long time ago booked lunch meeting. I nearly cancelled it this morning – I am far too busy these days. Luckily my wife played the advocate of the person I had agreed to meet and reminded me of what is important. Respect, keeping to ones promises “and anyhow you need some relaxation time, perhaps you’ll enjoy it more than you expect”.

Oh, how right she was. It was a great lunch; an inspiring conversation and I returned a little fuzzy in the head but re-energised to face the work that will need to be done over the weekend.

Have a good week