Anyone who golfs knows the importance of follow-through. Follow through is crucial to drive the ball to the target. So, too, is follow-through by leadership, without it we will often fall short of our goals.
How many commitments – large or small – do we make in a day? Do we have a 100% success rate in keeping them? Of course not – changing circumstances mean we can’t always do what we initially promised. But we can always at least close the loop and communicate the change, can’t we? These little commitments– e.g., a promise of a follow-up call, an assigned “to do” item – may seem like a drop-in-the-bucket given all we are doing. We may assume others don’t notice when we don’t follow through. However, the consequences may be broader than we think. Lack of follow-through may:
- Impede others from doing their job – others may be waiting for a promised piece of information or action. Not delivering forces them to wait longer or keep coming back to determine when they might move forward.
- Increase the workload for others – when we don’t follow-though as promised, others may have to step in and do it themselves in order to accomplish the overall goal and deadline. If this happens often enough, it affects our working relationships with others (see next bullet).
- Erode trust and increase frustration. Typically people will overlook a single oversight (unless it relates to a particularly critical or sensitive issue). However, if lack of follow-through becomes a pattern, it changes others’ perception of us and/or even our school or district. At worst, lack of follow-through starts calling into question our integrity, character, and truthfulness. People learn not to trust us and may get cynical (“that’s what she always says”). When others are forced to repeatedly follow-up with us, they get frustrated and begin to feel that their time and efforts are wasted and not valued.
- Decrease others’ willingness to support us and help us when need be – people who feel wary, neglected, and not valued will not jump on our bandwagon to help us out when we need it – or support something we need them to.
If we said what we mean and did what we said, most of these problems could be avoided. What other ways do you see follow-through (or the lack thereof) affecting your working relationships and results?