I’ve known leaders who were great at generating ideas, or even generating work for other people, but really bad at follow-through. After a while, I tended to discount what they said, because I knew that it might never happen. No matter how many other aspects of integrity they demonstrated, their effectiveness was compromised.
On the other hand, I once worked with an administrative assistant that was great at follow-through. Things didn’t fall through the cracks. If I asked her to do something I could forget about it, because I was confident it would be done. What a great leadership skill!
Like most of us, I fall somewhere in the middle. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years.
Find an organization system that works for you. There is a whole range of electronic options to help you keep track of what you’ve promised. For some things, I still like a paper to-do list that I can doodle on. One useful trick is to note action items with a check box. When I’m looking back at meeting notes the empty box acts as a reminder that I promised to do something.
Work around your weak spots. What kind of situations challenge your follow-through? For me, it’s conversations on the elevator. If I’m on my way to another meeting, the odds of remembering our conversation are small. I often ask people to send me a follow-up reminder of what we talked about, or else I’ll note it on a to-do list as soon as possible.
Set small deadlines and reminders. It can be helpful to break things down into small steps and record them on a calendar. For example, my recent entries include “Did Jeff send catering info? Discuss with Deb,” and “Check Doodle re: meet on 17th or 18th? Pick one and find a room.” These details are important, but not very memorable. By noting them on the appropriate date I’m more likely to keep the ball rolling.
What tricks have you found to help you deliver on what you promised?
Dee Anne Bonebright