Follow-through: Not just for golf
By Johanne Bouchard
EBS Business Columnist
I’m an avid golfer and look forward to practicing my swing these next few weeks, with the intention of improving my game and being consistent with my follow-through.
In a golf swing, as in life and business, following through equals completion and usually a better outcome. Halting your golf swing before it’s fully complete will affect the trajectory and distance of your shot. Similarly, failing to see decisions and actions all the way through in your business will likely affect the time, quality and cost to realize the desired outcome.
In previous columns, I’ve written about some basics of good business practices such as being on time, fully knowing your customers to better serve them, and providing employees with comprehensive training. Follow-through is another business fundamental to ensure you come across as consistent and reliable, and that you successfully achieve results.
Making a commitment to follow all the way through is something I see many business owners, entrepreneurs, and even top-level executives lose sight of when they’re busy, lacking focus or being overwhelmed. Being inconsistent with follow-through can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes and lower-than-anticipated results. In addition, your colleagues, management and employees can perceive you as unpredictable.
Here are three areas where follow-through is key:
Communication. Return calls, texts and emails as promptly as possible, ideally within one business day or 48 hours at most. If you don’t have an answer right away, at least acknowledge the message and notify the sender that you’re planning to get back to them within a given timeframe.
Most of us are aware that the messages we send via modern technology are delivered immediately, and while we can’t be expected to respond instantaneously, we need to show courtesy by being responsive. We must be mindful that each action – or inaction – sends a message about our character. A timely reply shows that you’re respectful and trustworthy, and that the other party is important to you.
Dependability. If you’ve made a commitment to be somewhere, to meet a deadline, to get back to someone, or to act on a task, do it. Not keeping promises shows a lack of discipline, poor communication, and disorganization. We’re all busy these days, and prioritizing your schedule over the people depending on you is disrespectful and can have major negative impacts.
Be mindful of your contribution to the bigger picture and how your inaction, procrastination or lack of follow-through can affect your expected results. Ask for help from management and colleagues if you can’t honor a commitment. It can often be humbling, but at least you demonstrate awareness of the consequential ripple effects, and you enable others to change priorities.
Expectation. The truth is we all have much to accomplish these days, and sometimes it’s just not possible to respond quickly or meet deadlines. Making an effort to manage the expectations of people dependent on you gives everyone an opportunity to readjust or to consider alternative scenarios. Managing expectations conveys that you’re mature, responsible and have a sense of duty.
Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. Visit johannebouchard.com to learn more or download her recently published eBooks “Board Composition” and “Board Basics.”