Friday, April 3, 2009 by Dave Blum

So far this week I’ve discussed 3 different requirement for building trust:

1) Avoiding gossip
2) Giving consistent effort
3) Demonstrating empathy

Today I want to talk about requirement #4:  Follow-through

A team leader, Marilyn, tasks her marketing director, Stuart, with the challenge of delivering a branding report within 3-weeks’ time.  After the first seven days, she stops by Stuart’s office to check on the progress of the report.

Stuart:  “It’s coming along fine boss!”
Marilyn:  “So, you’re confident you’ll have it done by the deadline.”
Stuart:  “Absolutely!”
Marilyn: “Okay, Stuart. You know how important this is. I’m counting on you.”

She leaves the conversation assured that Stuart is on task.  Not wanting to micro-manage, Marilyn resists the temptation to look over his progress. If Stuart says the report will be done, she needs to give him the benefit of the doubt.

A week later, having heard nothing from Stuart, she asks him this time to come to her office.

Marilyn:  “So, Stuart.  About the report.  I haven’t heard a peep from you in days.  No problems I hope?”
Stuart: “Not to worry, boss.  I’ve got it handled.
Marilyn:  “Again, I have to reiterate how important this is.  As you know, I’m presenting your team’s branding suggestions at our shareholder’s meeting.  Do you promise that the report will be done?”
Stuart:  “You’ve got my word. It’ll be in your hand well before next week.”

Something about Stuart’s manner has Marilyn a bit concerned.  His answers come a little too quickly, and he’s not making his usual eye contact.  But still, Marilyn doesn’t want to be one of those supervisors who look over her staff’s shoulders.  So she let’s it go…with some trepidation.

Now it’s three days before the report is due, and again, Marilyn has heard nothing from Stuart.  At 4:55 pm she gets an email from him, asking for a one-week extension!  It seems that one of his group members is out with a head cold…and his printer is on the fritz…and his chief graphic artist is not talking with his copywriter.  What next, Marilyn wonders–did the dog eat his homework, too!

Needless to say, Marilyn trusted Stuart to follow through on his promise.  When he didn’t, she felt blind-sided and let down.  Whether your talking about corporate team building activities, participants solving a scavenger hunt list or a marketing team working on a report– in all cases, it’s vitally important that you do what you say you’re going to do… and on a consistent basis.  Stuart over-promised and thereby dropped the ball; he will have difficulty regaining Marilyn’s trust.