Each year companies spend millions on preparing managers to be effective in their roles. Coaching, delegating, and counseling are some of the usual topics covered in management training. But one topic that isn’t emphasized as much in training, but often separates good managers from others, is the habit of following through on commitments.
“Many people don’t focus enough on execution. If you make a commitment to get something done, you need to follow through on that commitment.” ~ Kenneth I. Chenault
Whether it is a commitment to follow through on an employee’s simple request, or a promise made after a performance evaluation meeting, managers not following through can cause distrust among their employees. A national study conducted by Ultimate Software revealed:
For 93% of employees, trust in their direct boss is essential to staying satisfied at work, and over half of employees surveyed say if they aren’t satisfied at work, they can’t put forth their best effort.
Furthermore, employees will begin to speculate in their mind about the reason for the lack of follow through, and often perceive something that is not in line with the truth, and is unfavorable to the manager. And you know what they say, “perception is reality.”
Managers can avoid distrust by simply following through on commitments to employees by observing these guidelines:
- Be realistic about what you commit to or promise. Factor in your time, the timing of the request, how much control you have over the outcome, and whether the request is something that is reasonable or practical for the employee.
- Set a time frame with your employees and get back with them during that time. Try to avoid non-specific timeframes like “in a few weeks,” as that means different things to different people. Make it a definite time frame, set a tickler to remind you of your commitment, and honor that time frame.
- If you are unable to commit in the agreed upon timeframe, tell the employee. Reset the time parameters. It is okay to say you need more time to work on a request. It is better to be honest and update the employee on the progress of the commitment than pretend the commitment deadline hasn’t passed.
- Don’t delay because you have bad news or can’t deliver on a promise. It is better to bring the issue to an end rather than to do nothing or procrastinate. Learning the art of having difficult conversations can help with these types of follow-through commitments. That way you do not delay, further undermining the trust between you and the employee.
Establishing a system of follow-through will develop trust among you and your team. When your employees can trust that you will do as you say, they will in turn work harder for you. Remember they are watching everything you say and do. Your reputation is built on it. It also sets an example on how you want your team to operate and follow through on their commitments. The formula – follow through, build trust, and set the example.