I have always prided myself in my tenaciousness and ability to follow-up and through with what I committed to saying I would accomplish. Is this hard to do? Not for me, as I consider it both an aspect of both pride, and a representation of how I build and maintain trust with others. There is also the aspect of having the nagging feeling or thought in my mind that I need to finish what I started, or committed to doing what I said I would do.
Committing and following through on doing something is a motivating factor for me, but I realize it isn’t for everyone. I also appreciate the fact that for some people, following through on doing just about anything can seem daunting to them. Although I would add that they likely put more energy into worrying about not doing something, and could easily transfer this energy into an accomplishment. Yes, part of this is certainly a mindset challenge, but I have always found it is worth the effort to complete what you committed to doing.
There is also the aspect of how disappointing another person or a team when you do not complete what you said you would do. Perhaps some people either have good intentions and simply forget to do something, or what I would consider worse, is that they simply don’t care about whether they honor their follow-up commitment. For me personally, this strikes me as an enormous, missed opportunity for both personal and leadership growth. However, I do realize that not everyone is focused on becoming a leader, but there will be times in their life when the ability and skill to follow-up will serve them and others well.
Something which fascinates me about other people is how unaware they can be about the repercussions of them not following-up on something they committed to. Particularly when the stakes related to what they were going to follow-up on were high (e.g., sending a thank you note after meeting with a prospective employer or sports coach whose team you want to be on.). Another dimension to my thinking about non-follow-up people is whether they at one point were good at this and decided either consciously or unconsciously not to apply this ability at some point. If this was the case, they are fortunate, in that they can more easily than others who never were practiced at following up, get back on the proverbial horse to do so.
If people realized that the stakes of not following up were going to be detrimental to their ability to progress professionally, or that it would be harmful to their personal or professional relationships, I’m curious about whether this would alter their thinking or behavior? Perhaps if someone had expectations of an outcome playing well in their favor and they didn’t follow-up to bolster and ensure this outcome, do you think they realize they set themselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy? Again, there are likely unconscious factors contributing to why many people are sabotaging their own future outcomes by not following through. More importantly to consider, is whether there is something which would nudge them towards understanding how their lack of follow-up behavior is negatively contributing to their personal and, or professional life?
I firmly believe that having the ability to excel at following up is a skill and mindset that everyone can and should master. With this thinking in mind, I am offering some suggestions to either you, or someone you know who needs to stop receiving the grade of “F” in this category.
- People who tend to procrastinate are at a higher risk for being poor at following-up. So, the first thing you will need to do is to understand why you procrastinate before you can become better at following-up.
- Your attitude towards how you want others to perceive you may or may not have an influence on whether you will become better at completing what you committed to saying and then doing. If you don’t care enough about how others perceive you, this will be an area you will need to increase your desire to care that this does matter.
- Have you ever had a time when you were proud of accomplishing something you committed to doing for either yourself or someone else? When you are rebuilding your skills in this area, think back to the positive feeling you had and leverage this to help you to finish what you committed to following up on.
- The opportunities people are given when they do follow-up can be incredibly rewarding on a variety of levels. Is there an opportunity you either want to pursue or have been given the opportunity to pursue, but you dropped the ball on? If so, is it possible for you to ask for another chance to follow-through?
- Can you seek out people who will be willing to give you a chance to follow through on doing something for them, with the intent of building up your ability to have a string of success in following up and through on your verbal or written commitments?
- Visualize yourself as being someone who is well regarded for their ability to do what they say they are going to do. Now, think about the benefits that will come from being regarded as this type of person who others can depend on.
Since one of my pet peeves is engaging with anyone who doesn’t follow-up, I’m hopeful that if you are one of these types of people, that you will have a new appreciation for why and how to be able to do so.
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