One of the most important skills for any leader to possess is the ability to follow through.
Effective leaders realize the power of honoring commitments. By embracing a mindset where nothing is allowed to fall through the communication crack, leaders can significantly increase employee productivity and reduce employee stress.
There's a strong correlation between a leader’s ability to follow through and the trust employees have in the organization. Alternately, there are few things that destroy employee morale more than lack of follow through from leadership.
Follow through seems like a rather simple concept: Say you will do something, and then do it.
Unfortunately, many leaders struggle to keep their commitments. Why is this?
Most leaders engage in several conversations with different employees throughout the day. During these interactions employees may ask for something in which the leader commits to assisting the employee at a later time. If leaders aren't careful about keeping track of their agreements, commitments could be forgotten.
Here are five methods to help leaders keep track of their commitments:
Keep a written list: Paper and pencil to-do lists are one of the most common and effective methods for tracking commitments. The best part about written lists? They can go with leaders as they make their daily rounds.
Keep an electronic list: Many people use to-do list programs such as Google Tasks or Sticky Notes. Others use general programs such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Keeping track of responsibilities on an electronic to-do list continues to rise in popularity.
Mark your calendar: When making a commitment, consider getting in the habit of immediately creating a calendar invite to yourself addressing the task at a later time. This allows leaders to address the need at a time that works best for their schedules.
Ask the employee to email you: This is one of my favorite methods for remembering a commitment. I'll ask employees to email me a quick summary of their request. Having an email increases the likelihood I will address the need, and also provides a paper trail of our communication.
Create some quiet time: Sometimes when I forget commitments they have a way of coming back to me during quiet time in my office. Early mornings before everyone arrives at work provides an environment with minimal distraction, helping me to recall promises I've made.
Finally, leaders would be wise to alert employees once the follow through has occurred. Too often leaders assume communication after the fact is unimportant, or wrongfully assume the individual is aware the task is complete. Regardless of the situation, leaders who notify employees of task completion strengthen their relationships.
Looking for a great book discussing the importance of follow through? Consider reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.