I know my dog is going to be at home when I arrive. I know my dog will be hungry, and I know he’s going to sit when I tell him to before he’s allowed to attack his food bowl. I know my dog will want to curl up in my lap on the couch and I know he’s going to whine at me when he needs to go outside. I know my dog is going to bark when someone outside knocks on my front door (or if there is a similar knock on the TV). I can depend on the fact that, within a 1% exception rate, my dog will do and be all these things.
I know all of these things about my dog because he is consistent. I know exactly what he’s going to do because he’s always done those things. I can depend on my dog to react in certain ways to certain things at certain times because they happen almost like clockwork.
But dependability in a human, and especially in a professional partner, does not mean always doing the same thing at the same time for the same reason. Sure, dependability could mean that, within a 1% exception rate, I will show up to all my scheduled meetings on time; or that I will send the same update email every week with new information on budget and schedule. It could mean that I respond to questions within a certain time frame without fail or that my clients can expect me to be cheerful but honest and transparent with the work the team is doing.
Sure, dependability can mean all that. And we deliver on that basic level. However, being “Dependable” here means a little something more, something different. Dependability means our partners can expect that we’re always going to be thinking about the future. We’re dependably going to ask questions: the whys, the hows, the how comes? We’re dependable in that we won’t always accept the status quo and we won’t always simply rely on how it’s always been done just to get it done. We’re dependable in a way that says “we give a shit” and not just “we’re doing this because it’s our job.” Dependable is one of our core values because we will always and consistently do these things.
So what does Dependable mean as a core value? It means that I can count on my teammates to not only respond to a question, but respond thoughtfully. It means that I can depend on my team to consistently question the obvious solution and implement what’s best, and not what’s the most direct or easiest. It means knowing I’m not only part of a team, but that I can rely on the fact that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs. It means our clients and their projects can trust that we’re going to be thinking about what’s best for them and not what’s best for us at 5pm. And those are areas my dog just isn’t going to be dependable; but we are.