Last year, I published my 11 most important lessons from Microsoft email, and over 25,000 people read it and forwarded it to their friends and colleagues. Many people asked me to write in more depth about the topics in the email, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve spent the last year writing and will share more of that content at If you find this interesting, please forward the articles, subscribe to my email list, and follow me on LinkedIn.


Grandma made a batch of her pecan and chocolate chip cookies, and the entire family snatched them up.  Now there is one cookie left.  Annoying cousin Jeremy races into the kitchen, licks the cookie, and puts it back on the plate.  He knows that the cookie is now his because there is no way that anyone else is going to touch his spit covered cookie.  Everyone in the family is mad at him because Jeremy is notorious for not only licking the last cookie but also not even eating it.

Don’t be a Jeremy.

If you tell your coworkers you’re going to do something, then you better do it.  People will forgive you for being wrong, but being unreliable is intolerable and will destroy even the most promising careers.

People will forgive you for being wrong.

But being unreliable is intolerable and will destroy even the most promising careers.


If you raise your hand, then you must follow through.

Well-functioning organizations, teams, families – any group – rely upon people doing what they say they are going to do.  When one teammate doesn’t follow through, they don’t just fail on this task. Their failure to complete the work impacts other team members as well.

Your actions are what truly matter.  While you may have the best of intentions when you say “I’ll do it.”, what counts are your actions.  Don’t yap about doing something.  Do it.

Don’t think they don’t notice.  Everyone notices.

“I’ll set up a meeting for next week.”

“I will follow up with Sue on that and get back to you.”

“I’ll have a draft proposal in a few days.”

When you said those things, you meant them.  At the time.

But the true meaning is in the doing.  And when you don’t do what you say, people take note.  Most of the time, they won’t tell you.  But I promise you, even if they don’t say anything, they notice.

Every time you don’t follow through, you are damaging your reputation.  And by not doing the work, that bad reputation is being earned.

Signs that people think you’re unreliable

To assess your reputation, don’t rely on people’s words.  Look at their actions.

These are signs that you are viewed as unreliable:

  • Not being included in key meetings or conversations.
  • Not being asked to take on meaningful work.
  • People show resistance when you sign-up for work.
  • You’re only asked to do smaller independent tasks.

When someone is unreliable, no one is going to want them involved in critical work.  If you notice these signs, then look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have inconsistent follow-through.  Better yet, ask a trusted coworker for their opinion and push them to be honest with you.

If you are not 100% dependable, then fix it.  Fix it by keeping a strict to-do list and executing on every single item you signed up for.

If there is something on your list you cannot do, then take action to hand it off at the earliest possible moment.  Yes, you’ll take a minor ding for not getting it done, but people will respect you for proactively finding a new owner.

Your reputation is vital.

Your career depends upon your reliability.  If you’re reading this, then you have a desire to get better at your job and grow your career.  No matter what role you’re in, if you’re not reliable, you are going nowhere.  No one with decision-making authority will entrust you with a broader scope and more significant roles if they can’t count on you.

Your reputation is built upon your actions and not your good intentions.  Do what you say you will do, and a sterling reputation will follow you forever.

I bet you just remembered something you promised you’d do.

Stop reading right now and go eat that cookie.