Machen MacDonald
Special to The Union

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July 15, 2013
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It's all about follow through

In sports, coaches always emphasize the importance of follow-through. Whether you’re learning to swing a golf club, baseball bat or tennis racquet, you must follow through. It’s not just hitting the ball that matters, it’s how you continue your swing once contact is made.

The same holds true in life and in business. Think of job interviews, networking, sales or almost any work situation: Without purposeful follow-through on your actions and interactions with others, you won’t really be able to reach your professional potential.

“Failure to meet deadlines, honor commitments, monitor staff, return calls and keep track of long-term projects is the most underrated cause of chaos and failure in business life,” writes Stephanie Winston in “Organized for Success.”

So often we feel we’ve completed a task because the action of it is “done,” but we underemphasize how powerful it is to continue developing, tracking and monitoring operations and relationships even after they’ve been set in place. As Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan note in “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done,”: “Follow-through is the cornerstone of execution, and every leader who’s good at executing follows through religiously.

It’s not just what, but how

When we think of follow-through, we tend to think of taking action. But a large part of follow-through is about first figuring out how things will be done. Once you define your goals, set aside some time to decide just how you will reach them. What steps will be needed to accomplish them? Who will do which steps and when? What is the desired timeline? If a strategy does not address the hows, it is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Take meetings, for instance. A plan for follow-through should be detailed at the end of every meeting. “Never finish a meeting without clarifying what the follow through will be, who will do it, what resources they will use, and how and when the next review will take place and with whom,” Bossidy and Charan suggest.

Organizing and Delegating

A good organizational system will support follow-through more than almost anything. If you are among the organizationally challenged, do one of two things:

1. Make a vow, buy an organization book or two, reserve a weekend or a week and just do it. Get organized once and for all. You’re not likely to follow through well, if at all, when the disorganization gremlin has hold of you. Getting organized is one of the biggest keys to success; not doing so is an extremely common and most unfortunate form of self-sabotage.

2. Hire someone to organize you and keep you that way. The investment will pay for itself when you begin following through more consistently.

When it comes to follow-through, something is better than nothing. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. The best is to follow up as frequently and best as you can, a practice that can even affect productivity positively.

On a day-to-day basis consistent, automatic follow-through can deflect a lot of chaos that can push your day off course.

Make it Up, Make it Fun, and Make it Happen!

Machen P. MacDonald, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley. He helps business people gain more clarity, confidence and certainty to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000.

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The Union Updated Jul 15, 2013 12:46AM Published Jul 15, 2013 12:46AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.