For many years during my corporate America tenure, I taught various leadership topics. One of my favorite courses was called Building Leaders. (Some of you may remember taking those sessions with me!)
It was a favorite because we hit upon so many keys to personal success. Simple practices (which aren’t always simple to implement) that we can incorporate in our every day lives to make ourselves more successful in whatever we do, whoever we are, and in no matter what our circumstances. Things such as communication, dependability, and making an impact.
I would like to share one of the practices that can make a difference in anyone’s professional and personal life. That is the topic of Finishing. In a nut shell, this means doing what you say you will do. But, it involves two very distinct parts. Follow through and communication.
Why do we fail to finish some things? There can be any number of reasons. Maybe because our initial expectations are not met. Perhaps we can’t make the needed adjustments. Or sometimes we simply just run out of energy.
Many of us start a project, follow it through until it’s 98% complete, and then our focus changes to a new project or priority and that remaining 2% never gets completed. You know, projects like getting those old photographs organized, scanned, and labeled. Getting the garage cleaned out enough to squeeze in our vehicle. Or getting a task done for our boss—on time!
Why is it important to finish things 100% the first time? Because it increases our own productivity and it avoids wasted time when we go back later and have to figure out where we left off. But, one of the most important reasons for following through is because it enables us to fulfill our promises made to other people.
Remember how frustrating it was when someone said they would be somewhere at a certain time or would deliver something within a specific timeframe, and then they failed to follow through?
It wasn’t just a disappointment, it affected our own productivity. We expected them—counted on them to deliver and they did not. And, often to make matters worse, there was no communication. Just the missed deadline.
By us not following through on our promises, we can cause other people to miss or not meet their obligations. Remember that task for our boss? They were counting on us to finish our part so they could finish something they were responsible for.
In most things we do, we are NOT independent of each other, but rather INTERDEPENDENT on each other. Virtually everything we do affects someone else either in our organizations, for our customers, or with our friend/family members. It can make you want to pull your own hair out when you depend on someone to do something, and they not only don’t follow through BUT they also do not communicate.
So Yes, the second part of finishing is Communication. We must communicate—that is talk to each other!
Let’s say for example that we have a deadline for a task or a report due or an appointment scheduled at a coffee shop. Basically, we have agreed to do something. Everything is going as planned until suddenly an unexpected situation arises and we discover we are not going to be able to meet the deadline or complete the task or fulfill the obligation. (After all, sometimes legitimate reasons do come up.)
We now realize that we are unable to finish by the originally promised time. So, we should always go to the person that is expecting the result and communicate with them—not at the time that it’s due or after it’s due, but before it’s due.
Why before? Because, communicating BEFORE the deadline affords that person options. An opportunity to make new arrangements, if necessary. And, not feel like they’ve been left high and dry wondering what happened or if they can trust us to do anything in the future.
Communicating with them in advance gives them the freedom and the peace of mind to hopefully allow for alternate plans on what needs to happen next. Frankly, it can remove a lot of the stress in the situation and often the deadline can easily be extended. At best, it indicates to the other person that we are responsible and respectful of their time and of their own needs.
It takes energy and effort to be a finisher 100% of the time. It isn’t always easy.
Finishing what we say we will do is one of the most important actions we can engage in to be considered successful in our work and personal life. We become viewed as dependable, responsible, and professional. Someone who can be counted on. And, we all like to believe that people can count on us.
Where to start? Make a list of all the things you are unfinished with. There are probably some work related and some personal. Then determine which ones need to actually be finished. Admittedly, sometimes our priorities change and certain things can and should drop off our list. No problem there.
For the items that remain (either because they are really important to you personally or because other people are counting on you to finish them), don your finishing hat and figure out how to get them 100% complete. Make a recommitment to finish them and I can guarantee it will make you feel more ‘complete’ yourself!
Being known as someone that follows through, communicates effectively and who is a finisher, will ensure you will be more personally successful.
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