I think everyone’s been there. Where you get off the phone, you’ve just run through a big meeting, or a long conversation and after going through a bunch of different issues you get to an agreement. Once you get resolution or you’ve figured out how to move forward, the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders because you’ve sorted through all these things. Then you go back, you do the rest of your work and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Then a day goes by or maybe a few days go by and the things that were resolved on the call or meeting don’t get done. Then, if it was a big issue before it’s even worse now because now time passed. You have finished whatever you needed to get done and now you’re in a really bad spot because the other person isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. So for me, one of the things that I really try to focus in on is following through.
I’ve written blogs in here with regard to having better meetings, about making sure you take notes of action items, and things like that but if you focus in on it from just a general perspective on life, following through is invaluable in moving you forward. I think it’s because it provides a lot of insight into who people are or insight into how you are perceived. Following through is critical because almost everyone knows the right things to say. So saying the right thing doesn’t hold that much value because everyone can do that, it doesn’t mean anything without the actions to back it up.
I feel like you get on a call, or you’re in a meeting, or you’re talking to someone, and they’re quick to agree. They say things like, “We can do that. No problem. We’ll get that done tomorrow,” and if it doesn’t get done it’s a huge factor in shaping your impression of that person. It’s huge especially if it happens to be someone you’re in business with or you’re going into business with them; it shapes that relationship. If it’s a client, it can be an enormous roadblock to moving forward. If your client is paying you to engage in a certain fashion and you don’t follow through, if I were that client I’d be prone to move onto something else. To me, that lack of follow through would be indicative of everything else. If I can’t get you to do the things that I directly tell you to do, why would I expect that you’re going to do things that maybe we haven’t discussed but are just the right thing to do? So I think it’s a critically important thing and it’s something that I think a lot of people fail at. I don’t think they fail because they don’t want to do what they said they’re going to do, but because they don’t keep track of the things they said they want to do or the things they said they were going to do.
So I think it’s critical to make a note of what your commitments are. You verbal commitments and the things that you’ve written down in an email to somebody are just as important as financial obligations that you’ve incurred. While people normally keep really good track of how they spend their money and where they’ve obligated their money, they don’t keep very good track of how they obligated their time, their promises, and the things that they’re signed up to do. I think it’s critical to how you’re perceived out in the world. The importance of honoring your commitments is why I’m a big believer in the “Getting things done” methods and part of that is keeping track of all the things that you’re committed to. I just think there’s such a huge cost to making mistakes in this area that I think everyone should consider taking the time to manage their commitments. So I’m curious what other people think, what their experiences have been, and if there are great examples of this out there I’d love to hear them.