Follow Through

By Chuck Violand

June 20, 2016

Most entrepreneurs are full of ideas, energy, and a strong drive to get things started. Where many of us fall short is in the follow-through once we’ve gotten the ball rolling. We get bored or impatient with the length of time it takes to gain traction on new ideas or overwhelmed with the details required to complete our latest venture. It’s this lack of follow through that dooms many great ideas to the dustbin and compromises our relationships with the people we rely on to carry out those ideas. This characteristic applies to many areas of our businesses, and it hurts us in ways we don’t always see.

Take meetings, for instance. Most of us don’t like meetings. We typically view them as a waste of time—until morale tanks, or sales drop off, or customers start calling with complaints. Then we suddenly get religion about having meetings and proclaim to anyone who will listen that we’re going to start having meetings every week! And, while our intentions may be sincere, this usually lasts only a couple weeks until the original reason for having the meetings fades, or until we get distracted with the next new thing, and the meetings start getting rescheduled or canceled altogether.

What we fail to appreciate is the impact our inactivity can have on our people and our companies. Failing to follow through on the things we say we will can cause people to question what other things we’re letting slide. When this becomes a pattern, which it too often does, it leads people to question our integrity.

Failing to follow through on something that’s important to others may make them question how important they and their concerns really are to us. This, in turn, is reflected in their loyalty to us and our companies.

Taken a step further, failing to follow through on the things we commit to serves as an example for our people to follow. After all, if the boss is establishing a pattern of not following through, then that’s how business must be done here. Before long, this casual attitude can take a toll on the overall performance of the company.

We promise people we’ll get back with them, and then we don’t. We get caught up with more pressing priorities, or we don’t make time to track down the information we need, or we simply forget. But regardless of the reason, it doesn’t change the way the other person feels as a result: unimportant or forgotten.

A friend of mine, once the president of a very large organization, made it a practice to return all phone calls and emails before the end of each day. I was amazed at this considering the size of the organization he ran and how full his schedule was. But sure enough, any time I left him a message he was sure to either call or email me back by the end of the day. He didn’t always have time for long emails, but he always acknowledged that he had received mine and would get back with me.

It didn’t take me long to realize how powerful this gesture was. It telegraphed to me that I was important to him. Every returned email built trust between us; every returned phone call strengthened our relationship.

Following through on things doesn’t take an advanced degree in business or a lot of money. But it sure lets everyone know what a disciplined, caring professional you are.