IT Employment

Is the ability to follow through the new 'nice-to-have' competency?

People are so busy learning the job skills that they can easily render in resumes with keywords that they have forsaken the one skill that is the most important.

Bit of a rant coming up. A friend of mine recently forwarded me a job description that included under key competencies the line, Builds Trust: You honor your word by doing what you say you are going to do.

This sentence glared out to me for several reasons. First of all, you can only imagine the history behind that one. No one puts that kind of thing in a formal job description unless they have been burned in a bad way before.

Second, the fact that the hiring manager had to explicitly state that is, to me, a sad indicator of what the working world is coming to.

Third, I am a firm believer that there is no person on this earth who would admit to, or even be aware of, an inability to do what they say they're going to do. And I also believe the inability to follow through is becoming a national disease. (I'm saying only national here, because I think other cultures aren't as eaten up with undependability as we are.)

If I had a nickel for every time in my career that I've had to wait for a promised piece of a project or work from someone who couldn't seem to get things done, I would be sporting a bad haircut and hosting Celebrity Apprentice.

I'm not sure if there is a common reason behind this. I don't know, for example, if the problem lies with people who can't judge their own capacity and over-promise on things they can't possibly deliver, or if people, increasingly, just don't care anymore that they're inconveniencing other people. Or is it just plain old-fashioned laziness? None of those reasons, by the way, exactly thrill me.

The ability to follow through should be a given. A hiring manager should not have to call that out specifically as he would with a familiarity with a scripting language. In fact, I would like to see the ability to do what you say you're going to do listed as one of the top three criteria for every job in the world.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

12 comments
ScarF
ScarF

The employers started this. Nothing else to add here.

richard.m.henry
richard.m.henry

The people that are asked to do the job other companies have 3-4 for people. In that case it has nothing to do with over promising something and just not being able to get it done. It can be common place for 15 people to come to them with high priority items and there is no way that individual can get all of them done when others would expect them by.

Dknopp
Dknopp

to say other countries/cultures do not have the sme problem with dependability. I have a friend in the fashion industry who travels thoughtout Asia checking for compliance in the various factories that produce his firms clothing , and I assure you it is a never ending battle to get the factories to make good on their promises. Not to mention the numerous IT outsourcing firms that will promise the world and barely deliver part of it. The inability to "follow through" is based on a large amount of situations. 1. Scared to say no, because you will be dumped. 2. Too busy keeping yourself tuned in the industry to actually do work. 3. Do not want to do a doownload of your skills for an "automation cookbook/script/program/etc " fully knowing that it is meant to dump the knowledgable people ( you and others ) and give the cookbook to know-nothings to try to duplicate your work. This one has numerous permutaions in the IT world now. 4. Fully meant to deliver and got hit with numerous sev 1-3's. 5. lazy. 6. Procrastinator, get swamped easily. 7. Companies do not invest in their people anymore, so a person feels obligated to do whatever is given to them without the neccessary training or skills to actually do it. 7. yada yada, etc. If there is a trend to more of this, I would venture to say it would have to do more with being overworked ( see sev 1-3 statement ) then it would be because America has turned lazy all of a sudden.

fullcirclenursing
fullcirclenursing

I would add to some of the above feedbacks - WHERE do companies and recruitment play a part in this? You get what you ask for........want a lot of good sounding fluff spewing OR good workers who can learn just about anything? To my experience, there is very LITTLE interest in the Tech/Biz world whether you actually are a "go to" employee when looking at recruitment/promotion and INSTEAD the greatest interest is in resumes/buzzworders that can "talk a lot of crap" and probably deliver very little. Most likely the stick-to-it & get-it-done-as-promised worker is still toiling over fixing the messes that the slick talking BSer created - WHO actually got promoted..... Tail wagging the dog?

iamnorthwind
iamnorthwind

It would be nice if at least a small percentage of the recruiters out there had this skill too; I can't tell you how many opportunities have disappeared solely due to the recruiter dropping the ball in one way or the other.

TGGIII
TGGIII

I agree with the commentary that has gone before and will add that what we are seeing is the fulfillment of several systems arriving at their logical outcome: 1) An educational system that teaches all outcomes are equal and promotes self esteem above excellence. Result: eroding skills with rising self perception of outcomes regardless of funtional fit. 2) Business cultures where leadership is so abstracted they cannot tell the difference between image and reality. Result: People rewarded for superficial gains that may actually harming the business. 3) Shift in moral consensus of the nation. We have moved to a belief that in order to show we care we must sign up for the cause. Result: When we over commit we expect to be judged by our intentions and motives instead of outcomes In the not too distant past, someone who agreed to do something and did not do it, was branded a liar and shunned in the business community. Today, this is the norm and if you attempt to do the vital few well instead of swirling through the trivial many, or jam through a vital task to produce the miracle of the day, you are accused of lacking vision. There is nothing new under the sun - you can see these behaviors across time in all civilizations. Deeming describes many of these behaviors in his Seven Deadly diseases of Management. Regardless of if the intentions of over committing were noble or self serving, the outcome is the same, a decline in the real productive output and loss of competitive position. Sounds hard but that is the way I see it. Grea thought for the day - thank you.

Docwert
Docwert

Yes, we all work with people that can't or won't follow through. That can be the person's fault, bad management or both. You can not judge all that from one add. Too often there is no money no time and an expectation that all can be done with a few key strokes. Follow through is not so much the problem as having the skills and ability to see the problem and bring it to attention of the people involved so that a solution can be worked out. Communication is the key element. If you can not communicate because obtuse people around you or your own lacking then nothing can be accomplished. This is where management is needed not pouting that George didn't hold up his end of the project. It is so easy to say the work force is the problem when what the company is really saying is that they have some major communication problems.

cirripedia
cirripedia

How does one indicate their success at building trust and competency in the follow through department without using the forbidden phrases in your resume? If it has been the standard for your work performance to stand behind your word and deliver as promised, can you claim 'exceptional' success? I could say I have delivered better than 100% success by completing all work ahead of schedule and under cost? But who remembers that kind of performance? It's expected and part of your job. My rant here

aeiyor
aeiyor

Good Day All. Toni Bowers, Great topic focus. Unfortunately, I concur on your trends perception. I've seen it too. Within my own environment, people say they will get to things and I do give them the benefit of the doubt. But so often its a broken promise already waiting to happen. It appears people aren't good with various elements to fulfill on promises. I feel words are often said without meaning or depth. I've been taught very early on that what you say, should mean something. It should carry its depth and people ought to be able to take it to the bank. It's value, priceless. But in a day and age where people say anything they darn please without consideration of its consequence or what it entails in responsibility -- nor the ramifications. Is it any wonder that service and commitments are so lacking. In my view, I suspect this starts at home. If you make promises to kids, you should follow through, and if kids make promises to parents, they should follow through. If there's some lack or disconnect then it needs to be addressed. If not then its a society where words mean nothing. Perhaps its naive but I will take people on their word, but disprove my theory that you can be trusted and to earn that trust is almost a Herculian effort. If they didn't value it, then they never will. If they realize what they've lost then perhaps it may be worth their while to heal and recover. Sincerely, Satori.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

At first I thought it was employees that can't judge their own capacity, but now I think it is a mixture of employees and managers. Manager Example first: Recently, there was a vacancy in another area of the company (the company actually caused the vacancy by promoting the person). The person who was promoted was really good and did a lot of good work. Well, now there is a full time person's work that needs to be done. Instead of hiring someone, they just dumped the work on our group, without the ability to hire someone. There are four of us in the group, and we all have as much work as we can do right now. The three different managers involved thought that because there are four of us, we could each do a bit more work and do it more efficiently. Employee example: I work with three other people. We have made a task list to see what current projects we are working on (in SharePoint). That way, we all know what the other person is doing. If you look at "current tasks", we all have about the same number of assignments. I pulled the yearly assignments recently (it is evaluation time), and I found that I have completed three times as many assignments as the others. I am senior to the other three but still - the difference is that I follow through and complete assignments on the original due date. A couple of times per month, I can see the others revising their due dates (so they don't get in trouble). Still, I really think the difference is between following through and not. And follow-through is not "nice to have." It is so important in the job environment.

thomasm
thomasm

Hiring manager also tends to unnecesary skills as requirements, In my current position I only use 10% of the skills that were listed on the advert and it does not look like I will be needing the other 90% anytime soon

Chinook70
Chinook70

I know of someone that is attempting to climb over the backs of others to make a name for themselves, and do this all without following through with existing promises. Sad to say. It has had the side effect of killing existing projects due to this persons lack of follow through.

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