The Lost Art of Keeping Your Word

The chasm between “promises made” and “promises kept” seems to keep widening. Consider:

How many times have you unsubscribed from emails and continued to receive them?

     I’ve noticed that a high number of “unsubscribes” are illusionary.

How often have you met with a vendor who promised a quote or proposal that you never heard from again?

     We’ve all had that experience of wasted time, for me, more than I care to remember.

When was the last time somebody said, “I’ll get that to you,” and then didn’t?

     Recently? It happens too often.

A company uses a pre-recorded message to explain their commitment to customers when you reach their automated customer help system.

     But the system wears you out with prompts, takes an egregiously long time and then cuts you off before you get the needed help.

A prospect requests a product be overnighted but when you call to make sure they received it, they don’t return your call.

     How hard is it to say, “Got it, thanks”?

Another potential client asks you to tentatively hold a date for an engagement. As the date approaches you call and email to confirm that they still want the date yet you can’t get a response of any kind.

     A simple email saying, “No thanks, we’ve changed our mind,” would have prevented much aggravation and wasted time.

If someone starts to talk about people not keeping their word, they sound like prehistoric throwbacks. Yet while I’ve not seen hard data, I’d wager that the keeping of one’s word is ill if not on life support. If I tally the number of times people I encounter don’t do what they say they will, I get nearly depressed.

Some behaviors go out of style or become displaced by better options. Keeping your word isn’t one of them.

Integrity as I like to remind myself and others is the distance between your lips and your life. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Dedicate yourself to saying what you will do and then doing it.

Keeping your word has always mattered, still matters and always will. 


Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit  He also helps professional speakers and execs creates superior digital presentations. Learn more here

P.S. Fred the Postman was a master of keeping his word. You might want to be a “Fred?” Find out why and how here.

Author: Mark Sanborn

Mark holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA) and is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Cavett Award, the highest honor the NSA bestows on its members, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the speaking profession. In 2020, Global Gurus named Mark the #5 Leadership Authority in the world.

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The Gift that Taught Me Something New About Selling

My first experience selling was in college when I helped promote success rallies for a now long-time friend. After graduation I held sales positions in the magazine publishing business. I was never the top performer but I learned to sell well. I’ve learned from direct experience and continue to be a student of selling. 

Sales lessons are everywhere if you pay attention, and my latest came from receiving a gift.

A woman approached me after I’d spoken to a professional organization and presented me with a wrapped gift. “Everyone needs one of these.” That was the best opening line I can recall for a yet unknown item. I then opened the box to find a small metal liquid container that could be used for any number of things. It was small enough to be convenient, large enough to be useful, waterproof to inspire confidence, high quality in its appearance, and aesthetically pleasing.

I thanked the woman for her generosity and she continued:

“I’ve admired your work and wanted to connect with you for some time. This bottle is incredibly useful and now that you have it, you’ll find yourself using it frequently. And you’ll agree with me that everyone needs one.”

She wasn’t selling me the bottle as it was a gift. She was selling me on the value of the bottle. A gift that is desired is far better than a gift that is simply accepted.

Her positioning and explanation of the gift gave me quick insight into her professionalism. She was thoughtful. She didn’t give me some swag that I’d discard later. 

I have and use that container. It is practical, and I need it now (even though I didn’t know I needed it until I met the giver).

“Everybody sells” is a cliche and like most cliches, at least partially true. The important question is, “Sells what?”

My new friend wanted to make a connection, and she did it by giving a simple but not insignificant gift. I learned that we don’t want what everybody has, we want what everybody needs. If you can convince your potential buyer that they really need what you sell, and then deliver on that promise, you’ll find exceptional success.

Sure, everybody sells. But what do you sell? And how can you convince others that what you sell is something that everybody really needs.

And here are two things you really need: the ability to turn ordinary into extraordinary. Here’s where you can learn how to do it:

And if you give digital presentations as part of your work, you need to know how to do that very well. Visit Virtual Presentations Institute for comprehensive training and certification.


Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit 


Author: Mark Sanborn

Mark holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA) and is a member of the…

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Free Speech at Work – Should Discussions of Politics be Banned

Free Speech at Work – Should Discussions of Politics be Banned

70% of Americans would support companywide policies that limit the discussion of politics in the workplace or with colleagues. Harris

Fist punching the screen. Beware the inconsistency of a

Free speech and context:

Political speech seems natural when your organization connects deeply to an issue and awkward otherwise.

Abortion is relevant when you work for Planned Parenthood or the National Right to Life. But if you’re a construction company in Louisiana, what’s the point?

If you work for a gun manufacturer, discussing gun regulation is fair game. But if your company makes baby food, advocating for gun rights – as an organization – seems distracting.

Discussing taxes is universally relevant.

Issues and organizations:

Discussing voting laws in Georgia when your organizational footprint is in the Northeast is an unnecessary distraction.

It’s true that some customers might not do business with you if you don’t have a position on important topics, but most just want you to deliver a quality product at a competitive price.

Drive a stake in the ground for yourself. Chic-fil-A doesn’t open on Sunday. They aren’t protesting when other companies open on Sunday.

Free speech at work:

All companies already limit speech. You can’t swear at customers, for example.

Expect people to act like adults. That means respect difference. But respect may not include liking. You might not like the right to bear arms, but it’s legal within limits.

The world grows violent when people hate each other because of difference.

Just because you can doesn’t mean it’s wise.


Everyone is intolerant. The issue is where you draw the line. People who brag about tolerance can’t tolerate intolerance. Beware the inconsistency of a “tolerant” person forcing others into conformity.

Do your best to live in harmony with everyone.

Organizations have the right to limit speech that violates values.

Perhaps guidelines for sexual harassments have some application to political speech?

What suggestions do you have regarding political speech at work?

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7 Things You Need to Know to Give a Great Digital Presentation

If you search Google to find information about giving virtual presentations, you’ll get the most hits on presentation ideas and techniques. You also get lots of hits on “digital tools” which include platforms, lighting, audio, room setup and the like. 

You’ve got to both present and produce to succeed at virtual presentations. 

My friend Mark Camacho is also my business partner at Livestream Denver. Mark C. is a digital production genius. He knows how to make a digital presentation extraordinary. I would much rather present than produce as that’s what I’m best at and enjoy most. 

That’s why I partnered with Dave Reed and Joe Heaps to create VPI Institute. We teach leaders, sales and HR professionals, speakers and trainers how to make ordinary virtual presentations extraordinary, both in the science of technology and the art of presentation.

But there is something that should always precede both production and presentation: the philosophy of presenting digitally. 

Here are seven things you need to know:

1. Start with clarity. Why are you giving a virtual presentation? Would a phone call have worked as well or better? What is the ideal outcome of your screen time? Digital presentations work well when you need visual contact and feedback that you have your audience’s attention, you want to engage participants, and slides and/or graphics are important. So make sure a virtual presentation is necessary and then clarify the outcome you want to achieve.

2. Break preoccupation. Your start is crucial. This is true in all presentations, but harder to achieve digitally. It is easier to feign interest. Slow starts are penalized by instant disengagement. Open boldly so that people know that what you have to say is relevant to them. (And if you need to make some announcement or cover “housekeeping” or something equally mundane, do that after the strong open.)

3. Use variety. Monotone presentations of any kind are never good, but lack of variety completely kills virtual presentations. As the presentation goes on, interest will waiver unless you use variety to build and maintain momentum. Use variety in your pace, volume and presentation techniques to maintain interest.

4. Engage your audience.  You want active participants, not passive listeners. Being separated by time and space don’t prevent you from involving your virtual audience.  Ask as well as tell. Be specific in asking for feedback and periodically open the presentation for questions.

5. Educate and encourage. Getting people to want to learn from your ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. Without encouragement to use your ideas, the best ideas disappear as soon as the presentation ends.

6. Be the message. The message is what you say (your content), how you say it (your delivery), and what is done as a result (your impact). The message is primary, so it must be your role. Technology can only support and never replace the message.

7. Close powerfully. The recency effect means your listeners will best remember information most recently received and that,…

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Will You Join My Community?

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

I recently enjoyed a few days of rest with Margaret, my wife. We were able to spend time together doing the things that we love, right in the middle of the busy summer season. Now that COVID restrictions are changing, in-person events are coming back, which means my calendar is filling up again with incredible opportunities to add value to leaders all around the world.

Add to that the digital conferences that are now a mainstay of business culture, and the fact that we have studio space where I can go to record videos or host live broadcasts like Mondays with Maxwell, and there aren’t many days when I can’t or don’t talk to an audience somewhere.

So, with my calendar filling up and things being busy, how was it that I could afford to take a few days off to spend with my wonderful wife?


While I was resting, the team at the John Maxwell Enterprise was busy changing the world, and now I’m digging back in and doing my part to keep our Transformation movement rolling.

You see, Community is what powers Transformation; mass movements may begin with a single leader, but they build and increase impact because that leader adds others to the movement. Those leaders open the door and invite others in because they know the secret of Maxwell Math: when you add value to leaders, and then add leaders to your community, those leaders multiply the impact by bringing others to the table.

It’s simple and powerful logic, but for community to grow, there must be easy pathways for joining. Too often, organizations and teams in desperate need of people inadvertently make it a challenge for those people to join them. While email lists and social media accounts are helpful tools, it never hurts to have another option available.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce a new way for us to build our community of growth-minded, values-based, people-centric servant leaders. And it leverages a medium we all use every day.

It’s called Community, and it’s a texting service that allows me to text you directly with updates, words of inspiration, words of affirmation, and wisdom for your journey of personal growth. One of my favorite things to do is share with others the lessons I’m learning and the experiences I’m having, because I want them to feel invited into my growth journey.

We’ve opened the service up to a few people, but now we’re throwing the doors open wide and inviting everyone to join this new community! And I do mean everyone. This community is for:

  • People who have an abundance mindset
  • People who aspire to be a leader
  • People who are committed to personal growth
  • People who dream of success
  • People who dream of significance
  • People who want to know what’s going on in the Maxwell world
  • People who want to share in what I’m learning
  • People who want to share in what I’m experiencing
  • People who believe that they, with the…

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How Novices Contribute to a Team’s Success

How Novices Contribute to a Team’s Success

Everyone on the team has experience leading, but one member doesn’t have technical knowledge. She was hired for character, attitude, and leadership skill. But she didn’t know anything about the technical aspects of the business. I’ve been working with the team about six months.

It’s takes courage to swim with three boys who know a lot about the business when you don’t.

During a recent team meeting, Mary mentioned her lack of knowledge. I said, “I hope – in the next few months – you stop bringing up your lack of technical knowledge.” That’s when the experts in the room chimed in.

Walking into an alligator's mouth. Curiosity and bravery make inexperience an asset.

Our meetings include laughter and sometimes tough topics. When I challenged Mary, the boys said her lack of technical expertise is an asset.

Mary sees through a novice’s eyes. The boys said, “Her questions reveal that we aren’t as clear as we think. She sees gaps.”

When a technical novice works to find clarity, the team finds clarity.

Curiosity and bravery make inexperience an asset. When you courageously ask ‘dumb’ questions, the people in the room realize there’s another way to look at things.

Experience ‘knows’ and does the same thing over and over. But a kind, insightful, and courageous novice throws a wrench in established ways of thinking.

The desire to feel respected and contribute doesn’t always depend on competency.

Dumb questions are the bravest, smartest thing novices bring to the table.

*Mary isn’t her real name. She’s not a novice when it comes to leading.

How might teams maximize the value of novices on the team?

What concerns you about adding novices to a team?

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