The Follow-Through Challenge

June 13, 2022

By Meghan Greenwood

Listen to the podcast:

A sense of community and partnership is often what drives us to make certain decisions in our relationships and careers. We have a passion for collaboration and productivity, and we know who to ask to get the information or items we need done.

However, despite our most valiant efforts at providing a wishful timeline, sending gentle reminders, and doing a lot of the work ourselves, follow-through by the recipient can be the ultimate bottleneck.

We put so much attention into what we want, but for whatever reason, it is not reciprocated. Why is that?

Psychology Today among others suggest there are a few clear reasons that folks find follow-through so challenging. I narrowed these down to my biased top 3:

  1. Lack of value. Surely, the person asking for the task to be done (somewhat) understands the value of their ask, but too often, the recipient does not. A better way to approach a request is to definitively explain how the recipient will benefit from doing the job and then provide a specific timeline. A little tugging at the heart strings never hurts either! For example, “with your help, we can reach even more people in need.”
  2. Too many details, too little action items. If you are explaining the whole ask in great detail, the recipient will likely get lost or lose focus. Instead, try to be specific in what you’re asking them to do. Discuss a short list or literally write out the to do items in an email so they can refer back to them.
  3. No positive feedback. One way to ensure that your next request is ignored is by not acknowledging a completed task. And even worse, criticizing it. When something is done, no matter the extent to which it is done, it should always be recognized. A simple, ‘thank you’ goes a long way. And if you feel strongly that the recipient could improve the way they do their next task, check yourself before you provide constructive criticism. Could you have been more specific in your request? If the answer is a resounding no, then politely and diplomatically encourage improvement. Choose words carefully if you want to continue this streak.

Next time you are working with someone, at home or in the office, put these guidelines into practice. We’d love to hear how they work for you.


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