Lack of Follow-Through Erodes Trust


Recently, I joined a book club. I’ve never been in a book club before. Whenever I heard about one, they weren’t reading a book that I was interested in and I also wasn’t too keen on the idea of sitting around the library, a coffee shop, or someone’s house talking about a book. I was never a fan of interpreting literature. In school, I always doubted that many of the authors had all of this symbolism in mind while writing their books.

It is said that Ernest Hemingway once remarked of The Old Man and the Sea, “There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse.”

But despite my previous dismissal of book clubs, I joined this one anyway. The club was starting with a nonfiction book. The book was borderline self-help, but I liked the topic, so I got my copy on Audible. Do I say I read it if I listened to it? Do listeners of books claim to read it? I’m not really sure what’s accepted here. I’m going to say I listened from here on out. Correct me in the comments if that’s wrong.

Back to the story‚Ķ I joined the book club and started listening to the book. The schedule was to finish the book in four weeks. The creator of the book club set up a podcast and an online forum to create discussion about the book. I was a little behind and played catch up for the first couple of weeks. I know I wasn’t a great book club member, but cut me some slack, it’s my first time. After I caught up I read over the first two weeks’ discussions and was ready to contribute my thoughts to Week 3. Week 3 came and went. No podcast. No forum discussion. Week 4. Done. Month over. No podcast. No forum posts.

This book club died in two weeks. I logged in today and someone created a post on the forum 5 days ago that asked if the discussions were done. No response from the club organizer. Now, before you say, “Maybe some kind of emergency came up,” I’d like you to know that this person has a presence on social media. They’ve been traveling and don’t appear to be under any duress. It appears that they simply abandoned this project. Two weeks in. Brand new club. On the first book.


This experience got me thinking about follow-through. Follow-through builds trust and credibility. When you tell someone that you’re going to do something and you fail to follow through, trust is eroded. On the other hand, when you make promises and keep them, even if it’s not easy to do so, you build trust.

Follow-through communicates respect. If you make commitments and don’t stick to them, your friends, co-workers, and customers won’t only feel you’re not trustworthy, but they’ll feel as though you don’t have any respect for them. Maybe your team put in many working hours on a presentation. All that’s left is to integrate your topics into it. If you don’t have your research and slides ready, what does that say about how you feel about the importance of the presentation. What does that say about what you think of the hard work your fellow co-workers invested? This book club was a small thing, but I spent a lot of time listening to the book. Now I admit I still benefited, as it was a great book, but I can’t help but feel disrespected, as if my effort didn’t really matter. The person who commented on the book club forum has gone 5 days without a response. I’d classify that under disrespect.

If you can’t follow through, you must follow up. I mentioned earlier that the person leading the book club has been active in other areas online and it doesn’t appear that they are having any problems keeping them from leading the book club. But I don’t know that for sure. Is some kind of technical difficulty stopping them from recording and uploading the podcast? Did they forget their login to the website? Have they found organizing the book club to be overwhelming? I don’t know because they haven’t communicated. If you are going to miss a deadline or if you can’t meet a commitment you’ve made, you have to let people know. Often people will understand and move on. But silence will only leave a sour taste and people thinking the worst of you.

It’s hard to recover from lack of follow-through. If your trust has suffered from a lack of follow-through, even if it was only one situation, it may be very difficult fo recover. There’s emotion involved. The person(s) you left hanging out to dry may feel hurt. They may feel disrespected. They may be angry at you. What happens when you come back and promise your peers the world again? They won’t be so quick to believe you. If the leader of our book club returns, regardless of the story this person may have, how likely are any of us to purchase and read (or listen to) the next book? Will we want to discuss the January book at this point? No, we’re feeling a little bitter.


Well, what can you do? How can you make sure you follow through regularly? Here are few tips I found.

First of all, be careful what promises you make. Really think things out before you make commitments. If you don’t care about the commitment, you probably won’t follow through.

Second, make a plan to follow through. You’re probably going to lose some steam. That initial drive will fade. You’re going to need a plan to stick to fulfilling a commitment. Maybe you need to write it on your calendar. Figure out what will keep you motivated and execute the plan.

Third, get a friend to help you follow through. Discuss the commitment with someone regularly. It doesn’t even have to be someone directly involved. Even discussing it with someone on the outside may help keep you accountable. Request that the person ask YOU about it if you don’t bring it up with them.

Mastering follow-through will be valuable to you in many aspects of life. By its own definition, it will ensure you get things done. It will help you build trust with others and will move them to want to work with you.

Before you go, write in the comments below a challenge you once had with follow-through and the results of the situation.

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