Following through – whether in hockey, basketball, baseball, golf or any number of other sports – results in lift, accuracy and power. It guarantees the very best attempt and outcome after contact with the puck or ball. Strong follow through demonstrates reliability.
This concept can also translate to professional and working relationships. Is anyone else noticing that follow through and follow up are increasingly becoming amiss? What’s causing this? Are certain individuals prone to the pattern based on their situation or style?
None of us are perfect. Any one of us can occasionally drop the ball. Yet a continued pattern of a lack of follow through can send all the wrong signals, damaging our personal brand and reputation.
The most respected and effective leaders DWTSTWY –
Do What They Say They Will Do.
In a recent 10-year study by Harvard on “CEO-Sprinters”, those who get to the top faster, consistently demonstrate the behavior of reliability (Botelho, Powell and Wong, 2018). Each day, they work hard just to keep their promises. Those who didn’t make it to the top in the study weren’t reliable with follow through.
The following examples may present just a few all too familiar scenarios:
- A colleague reschedules meetings at the last minute, and their pattern is predictable.
- You send an email at someone’s request or go above and beyond to provide a requested resource or answer. They don’t even respond. There’s no “Thank you!” or, even, “This stinks.”
- You’ve given business to an organization, you send an email to several leaders for the potential of doing more business with them, and no one follows up. This one is a real head scratcher.
Do you want to be better at follow through?
Set reasonable boundaries for yourself – know what you can and can’t do. What’s realistic for your schedule? I get lots of requests for networking or informational meetings. As much as I would like to meet with everyone, it’s practically impossible if I’m going to serve my clients in the way they deserve, love on my family and leave a bit of space for myself. One give back meeting per month is all I can realistically handle. So, I tell them, “I’m not able to give you the time and full presence you deserve right now.” The answer can be “no”, or “not now.” You have a choice.
Aggressively use and honor your calendar. Have you promised someone you would follow up next month? Put it on your calendar right then. We’re all wired continuously, so there are no excuses.
Recognize the impact on your brand or reputation if there’s no follow through. A ball dropped once or twice is understandable. Commitments continually broken send undeniable signals that we’re either too busy, over committed, can’t manage our schedules, or perhaps even don’t care. None of these are the trademarks we’re shooting for as leaders.
Do you see yourself in this post? Are you ready to be a more reliable leader?
- Apologize if you’ve been the offender. Fortunately, most people have more grace than we give them credit for.
- Commit to a process that helps you follow through. Technology and resources are rife. Use them. Ask others who are successful at follow through to learn their best kept secrets.
- Start over. Change your story. Instead of saying, “I’m bad about following up”, tell yourself, “I honor my word.” Reinvent how you show up as a respected leader and person.