Following Through to Build Trust and Be a Leader
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How important is it to follow through on something to you? Maybe from another angle, how important is for others to follow through for you? Following through is finishing the job, doing what you say, and keeping your commitments. It is critical for strong teamwork, being an effective leader and building trust in the workplace. Let’s follow a short story, that is maybe partially true with changed names.
Tommy was 9 years old when his parents divorced, and it was a devastating to him. His father left and he ended up staying with his mom. Eventually it was worked out in the divorce that Tommy would go stay with his dad every other weekend Friday through Sunday, meaning the two week stretches in between he would be at home and not see his dad.
His dad would call occasionally during those times and sometimes mention things such as getting ice cream, going to an amusement park, or eating at a favorite restaurant. Tommy would get really excited in anticipation from what his dad would tell him.
Unfortunately, Tommy’s dad wasn’t the most reliable and would sometimes not show up on Friday to pick Tommy up or show up really late. When he would pick him up, it was usually a quick pizza on the way to his house. And they really did the things that his dad promised. Tommy eventually began to tune out when his dad would say things to him because he knew he was either lying or would forget about it later.
It’s a sad story but one that goes to the heart of following through on commitments and keeping your word. Tommy eventually began to lose faith in what his dad told him and as he got older, he began to trust his father less and less. That is how it manifests. Miss a commitment here, then another one there and eventually trust and any faith in that person begins to deteriorate. And it is so hard to rebuild it when it does.
Another analogy in the work world.
Bill and Jim are on the same team and have been for the last 6 months. they have been working on a project for the last 2 months with a broader team, but Bill and Jim work in the same function, engineering, so work more closely. Bill and Jim divide up the workload, with Bill committing to get his work done, and even when Jim falls behind due to personal issues, Bill steps in to volunteer to help taking on additional tasks.
While Jim is hesitant because he just met Bill a few months previously, he agrees in an effort to not disrupt the project. If things don’t stay on track, Jim would be under the microscope. Jim decides to trust Bill and give it a go. Bill comes through on multiple things he committed to helping on, not only on time but doing a great job.
It’s safe to say that going forward, Jim would have no issues trusting Bill or relying on him. He followed through on his commitments and did what he said he would.
In a world where trust is becoming thin across the board, following through is the DNA of building and maintaining trust. When it comes to team building and leadership, we talk a lot about establishing trust. Being honest, in other words not lying or being deceitful, is one of the cornerstones for gaining (or conversely, destroying) trust, as we talked about in this post. Another is following through and keeping your commitments, just like Bill did in the example.
Following through builds trust in a progressive manner each time you do it, but failing to do so erodes it, more and more with each miss. Most folks will let a miss or two slide given some circumstances but repeated misses will surely breakdown the walls of trust, and as we talked about previously, once the bank account of trust is depleted, it is so hard to make the deposits to build it back up.
As a leader, are you following through on your commitments like Bill was? Are you doing what you say, backing words with actions? Or are you missing like Tommy’s dad was and eroding trust of those around you? Follow through, no matter what. You will be glad you did, and so will your people and your loved ones.