175. The 3 F's of Failed Leadership
Let's get to the heart of the issue.
I never understood why teachers ignore the E when giving grades. As long as I’ve been alive, the options have always just been “A, B, C, D, F”.
No E. What’s wrong with the E?
It can’t be considered an alphabetical order decision because, well, it’s missing the E.
It’s like those buildings/elevators that go from floor 12 directly to 14. I hate to break the news to you but there is still a 13th floor, no matter what you call it.
The grading also isn’t decided by letter popularity. According to a ridiculously comprehensive study of 3.6 trillion letters in 744 billion words, E is actually the most popular letter of the alphabet. If it were a popularity contest, “E” would be the highest grade, and “B”, the seventh least popular letter, would be a bad grade. So forget that theory.
The truth is that E was removed from the grading system in 1930 in order to avoid people mistakenly thinking that it stood for “Excellent”.
I’ll give you a minute to let that soak in.
OK, minutes up.
First of all, this is utterly demeaning and I’m overly offended. Whatever nincompoop came up with this excuse for the missing E has such little faith in the US educational system that they don’t believe we (or our children) can tell the difference between a failing grade and a mark of excellence.
I ask you, if we are so idiotic as to mess up the meaning of the “E” grade, what’s stopping us from thinking “F” means “fantastic” or “A” means “awful”?
You know what, I’m just getting riled up and this has absolutely nothing to do with what we are about to discuss. I’m going to take a big breath and try to put this aside.
Truth be told, this entire rant started simply because I got frustrated thinking of people who don’t follow through with their promises.
Which Brings Us To Integrity
Successful leaders have a high level of integrity. In fact, high integrity is usually one of the key reasons why they are trusted and respected.
Integrity, according to something I once read, is when what you say, what you do, and what you think, are all aligned.
Somebody who continually compliments others and then demeans them behind their backs is a person who lacks integrity.
Somebody who continually commits to doing things without ever following through is a person that lacks integrity.
This is the one I want to talk about today - people who don’t follow through with their promises.
The 3 F’s of Follow-Through
We’ve already established that nobody cares about your excuses, so instead we are gonna talk about the reasons you have to come up with excuses.
Let’s all agree that it’s bad when people don’t follow through with their promises. There are three explanations for this behavior. I call them the ‘3 F’s of Follow-Through”. They are:
Failure to care
Let’s chat quickly about each one.
Leaders may simply forget their commitments to others and, as a result, fail to follow through. This is, quite frankly, a lame excuse. Wicked lame. I pray that it’s not what happens with you.
Forgetting to follow through on a commitment is less a problem of bad memory and more a problem of poor organizational habits. Or lack of habits, whichever the case may be.
If you are a person who continually forgets to follow through, you best come up with a better method for prioritizing your work and you better do it pronto. Otherwise, you’re on the fast track to being fired.
Fear is one of the most widespread reasons why leaders fail to follow-through on their commitments.
There are many shades of fear. One is a desire to be liked.
Fear of not being liked is a major driver towards failing to follow through.
For instance, I’ve seen many a leader who knows they have to fire toxic employees. They tell others they will fire the toxic employees. But when push comes to shove, they won’t fire the toxic employees. Why? Because they are fearful of not being liked - they have a fear of follow-through.
Another major fear that leads leaders to lack of follow-through is the fear of making a wrong decision.
It is a heckuva lot easier to follow through on commitments when the decisions are black and white. But life isn’t black and white. Neither are decisions. There’s a whole bunch of grey area involved. Making decisions in the grey area can be really really scary. When people are scared, they don’t always follow through.
There are a whole bunch of other elements of fear that could play a part. Next time you fail to follow through on a commitment, ask yourself what you’re scared of. It’s probably something.
If not, maybe you just don’t care.
Failure to Care
Second to fear, failure to care is the next most popular reason leaders don’t follow through with their commitments. This one is more prevalent than you may think.
You may not consciously understand that you don’t care. You may not even refer to it as not caring. But I’m telling you right here and right now, you have a choice of what you do in life. If you don’t follow through with a commitment, and the reason isn’t one of the other F’s, then the fact is that you just don’t care.
As poet Brian Andreas kinda said (and I paraphrase):
there is just enough time in life to do all the things that are important to you.
For instance, a leader can commit to being more transparent, but if they continually find reasons to hold back information, they simply fail to care about transparency. If they really cared, if it were a top priority, they would do it.
Every now and then we all fail to follow through with something we promised. But here’s what I’m challenging you with:
Really consider how often you’re failing to follow through. Ask colleagues their opinions too. Be open to the answers. Then figure out which of the 3 Fs are coming into play in your life.
Remember, the first step is admitting it.
The second is changing it.
It will work out better for you in the end. I promise.
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“It is the follow through that make the great difference between ultimate success and failure, because it is so easy to stop."
- Charles Kettering