If you are like most leaders, you more than likely have a follow-through problem. You may not realize it, and it is costing you revenue growth and profit margin. As a business coach, I have had the benefit of observing business leaders of many high-growth companies. While many of these companies are on Fortune magazine’s list of fastest-growing companies year after year, they could be growing faster and could definitely more profitably. From the long-view, these are highly successful people and organizations. As you begin to look closer, you find that (like all high performers) they have opportunities for improvement. This article discusses the issues that commonly cause follow-through problems in an organization.
Lack of follow-through in the workplace could be due to how frequently “final” decisions are being changed. When a decision is made, it should be made based on certain assumptions, directed by key questions that were answered using facts. Once you have made a solid business decision, you should only change that decision if new facts invalidate the answer to your original questions or you find that you missed a critical question that could be catastrophic to the final outcome. However, this should be an exception –not the rule. In many organizations, final decision changes are all too common; and not because there was any evidence that the original decision would cause a catastrophic change in outcomes. As a result, the organization loses a lot of time and money failing to follow-through on solid decisions in a timely manner and rethinking the same decisions over and over again.
Are you trying to lead by consensus? I find that leaders often change their decisions because they want consensus; believing that consensus is necessary in order to have commitment to the decisions that are made. In order to gain commitment, it is necessary to permit everyone to be heard and to allow for healthy debate. Once this is done, you should have the commitment you need. Immediate consensus should be less common than you think, and when you get it, beware. It means that you probably have a bunch of “yes” people in the room, or you have failed to actively engage everyone in the discussion. It is a mark of a strong team when there are diverse opinions on important business topics. The most senior leaders need to be able to elicit these different opinions, listen to everyone’s position, and then make a decision. The rest of the leaders have to be strong enough to accept that their views will not always be accepted as the right way to go. Even if you are right and the team goes in a different direction, that is just how things go.
Do you ever find that a decision is made and a few days later everything changes? Worse yet, weeks later things change again. Business leaders will blame this on entrepreneurship and the nature of business. However, when this occurs often and you take a closer look at the issue, it is almost always a leadership decision-making problem. When you watch how decisions are made, you will see that most people-leaders are also problem-solvers. They look for the first problem they can solve, and off they go. This may work with little business issues and problems, but it does not work with the bigger ones that cause the most harm. Before embarking on a new project or deciding to invest in that new system, there are few questions that need to be answered that I find are often overlooked:
Are you allowing side discussions? This is another follow-through and commitment killer. It is critical that all decision-makers and influencers are in the room at the time of the presentation. Otherwise your project is going to start, stop, and reshape as the others eventually join in on the discussion at hand. Doing things this way will lose a lot of valuable time, and you also run the risk of losing trust within the organization. It is important to have everyone together so that everyone feels heard and can respond to each other’s positions. Some of your team leaders are masters at being passive-aggressive. They have found it advantageous to get you alone because they know that no one else can challenge their positions. They prefer not to be challenged, and they think of themselves as above everyone else. This needs to be stopped.
There are some leaders that do not let things end. You need to see a discussion through to its end and make a decision. This is a real problem in many organizations. When you have a habit of decisions not being final, it makes it very hard for people to charge ahead with action plans. They have no confidence in you. Once you have shown a tendency to vacillate on decisions, you are branded. Your team is going to wait to see if it really sticks. This means valuable execution time is lost because your people do not trust you.
If you’re having issues with following through in your business or organization, call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at [phone link=”true”] to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.