Cause and Success: How to Reach Agreement (Part Two—Follow Through)

Heather Furby

December 21, 2017

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Welcome back to the Cause And Success series where our hope is to help you learn to navigate the special needs that surround women in business, technology, and beyond so that you can have meaningful conversations and move your career into a place that you feel satisfied.
It's easy to take the last few weeks of the year "off" and shut down our brains, bodies, and selves with the thought that, "I'll get a fresh start in January." I encourage you to take breaks, and rest whenever you can, especially since the natural energy of winter is to slow down and hibernate. However, also know that the end of the year provides time to reflect on where you want to be, what you've accomplished, and where you want to focus your attention.

Companies begin to look at hiring for the next year; action plans for Quarter 1 are put in place; people decide to leave positions for new opportunities, opening up doors for others as well; many executives pick up their phones, as they have more time to talk.

In other words, it's a great time for you to take actions you may have been putting off so that you can set your 2018 into early motion.
The first article in this series focused on getting you to the point of knowing your starting point, taking a personal inventory about what skills you have and where you need to develop, how to make decisions easier, and the beginning steps to asking for what you want in order to negotiate and reach an agreement.

The next quarter we begin fine-tuning your communication skills, starting off with what to do when someone says "Yes" to your request, but doesn't follow through.

As a reminder, asking for what you want is as simple as adding STEAM to your day. You can read more about that here. A request is:

S-pecific—ask for ONE thing at a time
T-imeline—let her know when you need it
E-motion—help him understand the bigger picture or how it will help the team
A-sk (about them)—"What else do you need from me to make this happen?"
M-ovement (or Call to Action)—where they answer "Yes," "No," or start to negotiate

The Follow Through

We all know how frustrating it is when a colleague says "Sure, I can get you the Q3 numbers" and then. . . silence. . . and you can't finish your annual report.

Or when your boss says "Yes, let's meet on Wednesday to discuss your performance this year." But when you arrive at her office, she's out of town for the rest of the week.

Or a family member says, "I'll take out the garbage before dinner." And yet, at 10 p.m., there it still sits, smelling up your kitchen from yesterday's fish dinner.

Perhaps you've been the person to not follow through with your promise. You mean it when you say "Yes, I can help" or "I can give you that." But then, life happens. You get busy. It's not a priority. You forget to put it in your calendar, and then it slips your mind.
Let's break it down to a simple process so that you can look at the pieces you may be able to add to your communication to make it more effective.

When someone said "yes" to you but did not follow through (four steps):
1. Repeat your request.
2. Ask "What do you need from me?"
3. Set a consequence (NOT an ultimatum) if they miss again.
4. Follow through on the consequence.

1. Repeat your request
The simple first step is to go back to the person and repeat your request.

"Remember, we agreed you would complete the report by Tuesday."

"You let me know you could have the Q3 numbers to me by Friday afternoon."

2. Ask "What do you need?" and new timeframe
When we agree to something, we usually think we have all the information we need to get it done. This question is not meant to blame the other person for not following through. It's a genuine asking of "What else do you need from me to complete the project?"
They may need additional information, more time, got busy, lost focus, or forgot the purpose of the project. Make sure you are asking with clean energy and curiosity, not snarky sarcasm and resentment. Remember to set a new timeframe or deadline for delivery.

3. Set a consequence (if they do not follow through a second time)
You only need to move into the consequence step if completing the task has a consequence. Avoid the temptation to make up a consequence that sounds valid, but is you wanting the other person to know you are upset or let down. If it's a personal relationship, the consequence may be losing trust in her, but that's down the line.

This conversation can get difficult, and feelings can get hurt. We cover these types of difficult conversations in our cause and success: Critical Conversations course, but the basics are that you will want to let the other person know the consequence of not following through.
"Hmmm . . . if I don't get your numbers, I can't finish my report, and the entire team is at risk for losing our bonus."

"I understand you're busy. The meeting to talk about my performance is important to me. If I don't understand how I'm contributing or taking away from the team, I can feel my stress start to rise, and then I'm scared I'll let the team down."

"If you don't clean the living room, you don't get to play your game on the TV."

If there is no consequence, let the person know you're disappointed, and move on. The consequence step is the beginning for sales, negotiations, promotions, and building your team (or family) to move projects forward. It's not easy, but it's important. That said, you don't want to set ultimatums.

Ultimatums or threats are a means of control and are given when the behavior in question hasn't occurred yet. If you give an ultimatum, you are attempting to control the other person's behavior.

Consequences are a means of protection from the behavior happening again. You are not interested in controlling the other person; they have the choice to act however they would like. You are simply stating that you may not stick around to tolerate the behavior again (or, in the case of business, she may be fired, you may report him, he may lose status, she may lose your trust, etc.).

4. Follow through on consequence

If you thought to set a consequence was tricky, the follow through will be hard. Women especially back down on our initial need and request when someone does not deliver because we don't want to be seen as "aggressive" or "that bi****" leader. We end up compromising to not make waves.

If this is a pattern, you may have found your requests rarely get met, your funders may back out, or your team doesn't complete projects one time . . . all because you want to be liked more than you want to lead.
When things get tough, you have a unique way of dealing with it called your conflict style. We go into that in depth in the Cause and Success Leadership, Communication, and Accelerator programs. You do need to know how you naturally react and who you become when things don't go smoothly. If you're interested in that leadership topic, let me know.


After you make a powerful, STEAMy request, the person can answer "Yes," "No," or start a negotiation. If she says "Yes," but does not follow through, you want to:
1. Restate your request
2. Ask what else they need (information, time, perspective?); set a new timeline
3. Make a consequence (if they do not follow through, is there are the real consequence?)

Follow through on the consequence.

That's a lot of information to take in. If you're interested in diving into more communication tactics or finding out your unique style of conflict, feel free to send me a note at [email protected].
Next time, we'll look at how to communicate with people that stand in your way. Until then, get curious, stay connected, and be confident.

Heather Furby, creator of Cause And Success, is a business strategist and innovator in leadership development. She is director of a business leadership summer camp where adults explore and discover new levels of leadership without risking reputation, business progress, or hurting trusted teams. Results of working with Heather are accelerated profits, increased team productivity, faster decision making, and solid communication skills, but more importantly, you have fun on the journey.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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