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Don’t Leave Your Employees Hanging – Importance of Follow Through

April 18, 2017, by Corina Sibley | Performance Management

Good customer service means following through on your commitments; doing what you say you are going to do builds trust and credibility with your customers.  The same holds true with your employees. 

A few examples to illustrate this point:

  • You have an employee who has a habit of not showing up for work when scheduled. After numerous discussions, several warning letters and a final warning stating the next incident would result in termination, the employee again doesn’t show up for work and provides no explanation ahead of time. However you are too busy to deal with it so you let it slide yet again. His coworkers are frustrated and the lack of follow through sends a clear message to both the employee and his coworkers that it doesn’t matter what the boss says because you won’t follow through with it anyways, so carry on doing what you’re doing. Work performance of the team declines as does morale.
  • You’ve just finished a development discussion with one of your key employees who has asked for a particular training course to augment her skills. You promise to look into it and let her know that when your budget allows she can take the course. Months go by and she doesn’t hear back from you. She brings it up a few times, but finally drops the subject after getting a promise each time that you will look into it. You end up forgetting about it altogether. She continues to perform well but one day you receive her resignation letter. You ask her to consider staying, saying you will provide her with an increase, a regular budget for training, etc. She declines. You have lost all credibility with her and your words hold no weight.

Following through on commitments as a leader is crucial to your continued credibility.  Whether the commitment is to follow through on a course of disciplinary action or to provide further coaching, mentoring or training to an employee, follow through needs to occur by the deadline you set.   Each time you drop the ball on these commitments, or let a deadline slide, it erodes the trust and credibility capital you have built up with that employee and any coworkers who are in the know. 

3 tips for keeping your commitments:

  1. Harvard Business Review outlines some tools and tips to following up after coaching, one of the key ones being to “review your written agreements periodically, and follow up on action items.” 

  2. The article also advises leaders to ask themselves the following key questions to continually improve their role as coach:

    • Am I meeting the needs of each person on my team?

    • Am I holding up my end of the bargain?

  3. Set reminders, such as using Outlook Calendar, to follow through with disciplinary actions. For example, if the employee has 30 days to improve in a certain behaviour or course of action, put a reminder in your calendar at the 30 day mark to assess where the employee is at, and have a follow up meeting with him. If you let the deadline pass with no follow up, the employee won’t know where he stands and may either think everything is okay, or be afraid the hammer may drop at any time. And neither scenario may be correct. In addition, courts may view the lack of appropriate follow through of disciplinary action as condoning the behaviour of the employee.

By following through on your commitments as a leader you will reap these benefits:

  • Improved employee engagement; your employees will know you mean what you say.  This will improve their trust and respect for you.  A respected leader is a leader who is followed in good times and in bad.
  • Culture of honouring commitments; your employees model your behaviour.  By following through on your own commitments you will create a culture of honouring commitment amongst your own team; your employees will follow through on theirs – to  coworkers, managers and customers.
  • Robust performance management; your performance coaching and progressive disciplinary processes will have teeth and employees will know they need to pull up their socks if they are given a warning or put on a performance improvement plan.  Coworkers will trust the process and know that problem employees will be dealt with consistently and swiftly.

How will you ensure you follow through on your commitments today?

Articles of Interest:

6 Must Have Coaching Skills for the Successful Manager

Performance Coaching - Focus on Improving Strengths

My Employee Isn't Performing Well:  What Can I Do?

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