The Art of Follow Through in Business


Photo Credit: Andrew Eccles

Alvin Ailey’s Alicia Graf-Mack

By Jacqueline Lara, Marketing and Communications Manager at Maryland Women’s Business Center

The beloved Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is known for its breathtaking performances that defy movement and what the human body is capable of. The company has performed for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents — as well as millions more through television broadcasts.

Think for a minute if the dancers would be as captivating if they didn’t follow through on movements, turns and extensions. Probably not.

In business, follow through is everything. It can be the deciding factor to winning a new contract or landing a coveted position. Following through also builds trust, and helps maintain positive client and colleague relationships. Sometimes, fear stops us from following through, other times, we forget or give up. Here are a few tips to more effectively follow through:

1) Be Systematic—Develop a system for following through that routinizes the process, and removes any emotions you may have attached. A reporter shared her system with me, which involves creating a spreadsheet of which publication she’s pitched on what date, and includes the date that she’ll send her follow up email. This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’re much more likely to follow through when you set a concrete date or deadline for a task versus telling yourself, “I’ll just check in sometime next week.”

2) Be Persistent—There’s a thin line between being persistent and obnoxious, so use your judgment. There can be a host of reasons that a business contact goes MIA, but you’ll never know if you don’t follow up. However the situation pans out, you’ll rest easier knowing you’ve pursued an opportunity to the fullest.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice—Ask any professional dancer how they honed their skills, and they’ll say practice and discipline. The more you practice following through in various business situations, the easier it becomes. Although you won’t always get the response you’re looking for, you’ll learn from every interaction and can course correct as necessary.

Motivation is in the mind; follow-through is in the practice. Motivation is conceptual; follow-through is practical,” said Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.

In work (and life), it’s nice to be known as someone who follows through, as well as have people around you that do the same. What are some tips that help you follow through?


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