Do you find yourself frequently needing to remind your boss about something they were supposed to do? Or are you, perhaps, frequently guilty of dropping the ball on a piece of a project that you needed to get done? Maybe your particular struggle is in responding to requests for information or feedback. Or do people need to reach out to you 2, 3, 4 times or more to try and get your input or advice? Do you end up sitting in meetings and realize you didn’t do what you said you would do? Do you work with people who do a lot, but just don’t seem to get things done? Basically, how is their follow-through as a leader?
The problems described above are issues with “follow-through.” And if any of the above sounds familiar, I’m here to tell you there is a solution to your problem. You don’t need to blame yourself or others. What I am finding is that many people simply lack a system to manage the growing complexity of their current role. In a Forbes article on this topic the author observers “Day-to-day failure to follow through is costing managers long-term credibility with their employees. While managers may feel as though they can be counted on to support employees on significant issues, they discount how those little breaks in trust can add up.”
It has been my experience that poor follow-through in leaders results in a lack of trust and confidence and respect from their direct reports. Your follow-through as a leader matters. And while we all drop the ball from time to time, consistently doing so is a bad habit that an effective manager or leader will want to correct. The good news is that it really isn’t as hard as you might think.
Fixing Bad Follow-Through
The first step to fixing poor follow-through as a leader is to, beginning today, document everything you are expected to do in writing. You must write it down. How you do this is entirely up to you. If you carry a notebook with you everywhere, write down your to-dos and circle them (so they stand out from other notes). On a computer most of the time? Use a Word document or the Outlook task feature. If all you have is a smartphone, download Evernote and start a note entitled “To do.”
Next, to improve your follow-through as a leader, you need to then connect your to-do’s with your calendar. Put your task on the map. Carve out the time you need to complete the work. Personally I like to have my responsibilities entered into “tasks” in Outlook, because then I can just drag the task to an open spot on my calendar. Now I have time scheduled to get the task done!
Finally, remember to let key stakeholders know when you have completed a task. This will prevent them from reaching out and having to chase you down for things. It saves time for everyone and improve your reputation as a leader who can follow-through.
That is it. Just do it. Document your list of to-dos. Put them in your calendar. Yes, I know, there are a lot of nuances and unique challenges. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a problem for anyone. But it is hard. It requires self-discipline.
Leadership Objection to the Follow-Through Plan
Allow me to address one common objection to this follow-through solution. What if your calendar has NO room for any of these tasks? That is a real problem for today’s leaders. I’m not suggesting I have a cookie-cutter answer that will work for all. After 30 years in leadership I’ve experienced all of the schedule-crunching difficulties that exist. Let me offer just 2 tips:
- Are there any meetings you can eliminate or shorten? Most of us attend many meetings every day. How many of them could have been 30 minutes, rather than an hour? How many of them could have been an email, rather than 30 minutes? Try to be more efficient with your own meetings, and possibly suggest the same to others, and see if your calendar eases up a bit.
- Second, look out 4 weeks in your calendar. Do you have more gaps than today? Probably. Start to schedule some 15-30 minute blocks every week for “follow-through.” I hardwire these into my calendar so they cannot get moved. And keep doing this so that you don’t get back into the situation you are in today.
Conclusion about Follow-Through
I hope these thoughts on follow-through have been of some help to you. I don’t claim to have all the answers. But these are some things that have helped me, and I’m happy to share them with others.
For more content on Leadership, read my “Letters to a New Manager” beginning HERE
It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.
©Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
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Last modified: May 5, 2023