If you think being an effective leader means building a great team, giving them the skills they need to succeed, and rewarding them for their work, you’re right!

But there’s one more must-have for any great leader: follow through.

Whether it’s making good on a promise, enforcing a company policy, or just responding to an email request, lack of follow through is one of the quickest ways to destroy confidence, loyalty, and trust. And not just with employees and staff. It works for consumers and clients, too.

Consistently failing to follow through isn’t just bad for your personal credibility. It’s bad for your bottom line. 

Ever watched a truly great athlete swing a bat, complete a pass, or sink a sweet jumper? If so, you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: a strong follow through. The same is true for leadership. You can’t be successful by committing yourself halfway.

Start with passion

Being passionate about your mission, work, and ideas can build a solid foundation for great leadership.

Enthusiasm is contagious. When you have it, you’re able to bring people into your happy place by sharing your excitement and vision, making it much easier to create a coalition of loyal supporters.  

But no matter how big or talented or dedicated your team is, they will eventually lose faith if you don’t pay attention to details and come through when they need you.

Trust takes time to earn, but it can break down at a pretty alarming rate. Here are some quick and easy ways to diminish your influence and authority as a leader. In other words, don’t try these at home! Or at work.

Broken promises

Remember that time your dad said he’d take you for ice cream if you cleaned your room, but then he puttered around in the garage until it was too late to go? Of course you do! Pops may have long since forgotten, but to 5-year-old you, that was super traumatic.

The same is true for your staff. Something that may seem inconsequential to leadership could be a big deal for employees. If you need a demonstration of this concept, try explaining how “the ice cream will still be there tomorrow” to a disappointed toddler. Be prepared, though. You’ll need some earplugs.

Long story short: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And when you do make a promise, be sure to hold up your end of the deal.

Lack of response

Few things are more maddening than screaming into a void, and few things are more demoralizing than feeling unseen or unheard. Not responding to emails, phone calls, tasks, and requests is equivalent to saying, “I don’t care about you or your needs.”

Perhaps this isn’t your intent at all. Maybe you’re just consumed with other things, or you don’t have a good answer yet. That’s okay. A quick response to acknowledge the person and set expectations for what comes next is usually all that’s needed to keep the peace. For a while, anyway.

If you use this tactic too often without ever providing real answers or solutions, your team will feel even more unheard. Because now they know you’re aware of the issue and choosing not to address it.

Yes, being a leader means you’re busy. But it also means you have the power to delegate. If you don’t have time to handle a particular employee or customer issue yourself, get someone else on it. And make sure they follow up with you regarding how and when it’s been resolved.   

Inconsistent behaviors

Timely follow through isn’t always foolproof. No matter how quickly you respond, if you handle the same situation a different way each time, you’re going to drive everyone crazy. Including yourself.

Inconsistency breeds fear, and fear leads to inaction. The quickest way to paralyze your team is by being scary and unpredictable. And a team that’s afraid to do anything isn’t going to be very productive or innovative.

Develop organizational standards and processes, then create effective policy that is in line with your company culture, vision, and values. Make sure all of this great stuff gets documented and communicated so everyone is on the same page. Once you’ve gone through these steps, it will be much easier for you to be the strong, consistent leader you aspire to be— and the one your employees aspire to work for.

Finish with finesse

And now for a bit of good news: virtually all of these trust-breaking issues can be avoided simply by providing thoughtful, honest, and consistent follow up. So go ahead… swing for the bleachers! Just make sure you’re committed to following all the way through.

Photo by BarbeeAnne

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