“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.”

– Stephen M.R. Covey

Fear is what keeps me from making clear agreements. Fear of having to do something I don’t want to do. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. Fear of having to give up something to do something else. Fear of disappointing others.

These fears and the shadow of “I’m not enough” allow me to make half-hearted, unclear agreements. I can wiggle out of being accountable if I didn’t make an explicit agreement.

And the same shadow keeps me from insisting on clear agreements from others. So I let others off the hook too.

Of course, acting from fear and the shadow of “I’m not enough” produce what I feared – I’m judged, I fail, others are disappointed, I give up trust in myself, and I take on tasks and projects that I don’t want.

Sound familiar?

Clear agreements take the same format as SMART goals:

  • Specific – what are you going to do or not do, say or not say? Be as specific as possible when making and asking for agreements. Unclear agreements, get forgotten, neglected, and broken, start with vague notions of what is going to be done.
  • Measurable – can others readily tell that it was completed? I can be tempted not to hold myself, and others, accountable when it’s not possible to know whether it was finished.
  • Achievable – is it within your control to accomplish? When I agree to do things over which I have no control, I have made a bad agreement.
  • Relevant – is this action important to you? If it’s not important, it’s not going to get done. Or it will get done, but build resentment.
  • Time-bound – by when will it be done or for how long will the action go on? Agreements with no end date lead to procrastination and frustration. Others wait for us to be done as we leave things in the “someday” pile.

Let’s look at some examples of Not-Smart and SMART agreements. In each case #1 contributes to a Not-Smart agreement and #2 is part of a SMART agreement.


  1. I’m going to lose some weight.
  2. I’m going to lose 5 pounds.


  1. I’m going to work on planning my vacation.
  2. I’m going to decide when I want to go and request a week off from work.


  1. I’m going to talk with my partner.
  2. I’m going to ask my partner if they will pick a time for us to talk.


  1. I’m going to learn sign language.
  2. I’m going to review Spanish, so I can talk with Jaime when I go to Mexico.


  1. I’m going to run a race.
  2. On July 4th I’m going to run the Firecracker 5K.

The leadership challenge is to make, and request, clear agreements. Accountability requires it.

Go Answer the Call!