Follow up! It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do

This is a review of a book every manager should have in their coaching arsenal.


Laurence Haughton talks about why he wrote his book much better than I can in this snippet that he had written for a guest author post on 800-Ceo-Read:

It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do was inspired by two facts:

One: Only a handful of serious performance problems in business are due to external issues like a recession, oil embargo, change in industry regulations or any other outside, uncontrollable event. 83 percent of all the stalls in sales and profits are caused by “internal, controllable factors.”

Two: Companies invest tens of thousands of strategy days every year looking for evidence of these internal factors and then dreaming up a fix. But their organizations will fail to follow through on their initiatives half of the time.

I decided if I could figure out what obstacles are keeping organizations from consistently following through I could help all companies avoid the internal, controllable issues that cause businesses to stall.

4,000 pages of research and 18 months of in-field observations later I had landed on four major reasons why organizations fail to follow though and 13 specific fixes that help managers make sure what’s expected gets done (the definition of following through from a leaders’ perspective).

I’m a very trusting reader – probably too trusting, and that formidable research Haughton offers up in his book did stall me somewhat from really getting into it in the beginning, for I am usually so eager for whatever an author has to say I don’t have to be convinced. However, it turned out to be a case of my own focus and relevance to everything else in my world at the time. I should have started in the middle, for I devoured the second half of the book in one sitting. Then I went back and read the beginning again and loved it (especially the sections called Read Between the Lines, and Find a Champion).

I promise you this: If you are a manager or leader, you’ll get a lot of answers to your own What’s in it for me? questions by reading Laurence’s book. You see, the reasons which “cause businesses to stall” and “why organizations fail to follow though” are about us: WE cause the stalls when we don’t follow up.

Case in point:
Just this week, I sat with a leadership team who asked for my coaching in setting up some leadership training using their own talent within the company (and they have a wealth of it).

The key frustration they had was that they wanted answers on how to coach other managers to “take ownership.” Well, following through is the critical second part of ownership (the first part is committing to your decision to do it).

Turns out, there is a lot to that following through part: It’s easier said than done.

The gift Laurence Haughton has given all of us, is that he’s broken it down into such a great how to. He tackles follow through just as he promises, and in doing so, he coaches us to better effectiveness in a lot of sound management practice and forward-thinking leadership which is cognizant of the challenges.

For me, some of the best parts of this book were the profiles of great management and leadership Haughton offers up. As you know, I talk about strengths management a lot. I am now on my third reading, and in this third, specifically targeted reading, I am doing my own study on what the characteristics of these people profiled are besides their exceptional follow-through. This time, reading It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do is more practice for me in identifying the strengths of winners.

This is the short synopsis of the book:

Haughton talks about 4 Building Blocks.
To make sure that what’s expected actually gets done a manager must:

RoadforkBuilding Block 1. Communicate what’s expected in terms everyone can understand,

Building Block 2
. Match the right people to every strategy,

Building Block 3
. Get their teams off to a great start,

Building Block 4.
Maintain momentum long after the mood has passed.

[Graphics are from Haughton’s website: ]

Each one of these building blocks consist of three or four chapters, and Haughton has packed a goldmine in his book’s 238 pages:  It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do is one of those books for me that is thoroughly marked up and annotated — I even added to his index!

If you are a manager, this is a book to study. Keep the book close by, for you can use the Table of Contents to jump to the right place just when you need it to breathe a fresh perspective into some follow-through problem you’re wrestling with, or to help you get on the right track with setting better habits for yourself.

Personally, I’m having a lot of fun reaching for it right now, because it connects so perfectly with the Language of Intention theme I have set for Talking Story in 2006.

Haughton introduces a wealth of vocabulary for managers which isn’t necessarily new, but may be new to them. As a coach, I find that situations become much more recognizable for us as lessons-learned when we can name them. Haughton is very effective in bringing badly needed attention to our challenges by giving us identifiable language to use. In It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do you’ll find references to lean versus mean, skunking, and you’ll begin to hold champions in the highest regard. Even something as mundane sounding as sunk costs takes on a bit more meaning as a trap snaring us against letting go when we need to.

Trust me, you are sure to hear more about the Language of Intention as connected to thoughts that this book has whipped into new energy for me. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, be sure you come back tomorrow for my interview with Laurence Haughton.

Between now and then, visit his website, especially if you don’t have a copy of the book for yourself yet: Haughton has given you a lot of appetizers there!

Postscript: If you are an author, Haughton’s website is an exceptional model to check out.


  1. Rick Fuqua says

    In my experience, the simplest ideas are usually the best. Stick to the basics and stay on course until it is purposely decided to take a new course. Try to mitigate outside forces that will take you off course before you know what happened. Manage change – don’t let change manage you.
    I look forward to reading this one. Sounds similar to “Leading Change, Overcoming Chaos”.

  2. says

    The Art of Follow-Through

    Laurence Haughton, who wrote It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do, and It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business ( with Jason Jennings) is hosting a Webinar on February…

  3. says

    This review reminds me of an old saying someone once challenged me with: Doing it is doing it!
    So many times we are trapped by the words we speak because we listen to ourselves so much that we start to believe that what we say is what we are doing.
    If the book does nothing else but remind us that, it has already done us all a service.

  4. says

    Executioner’s Song

    The Final Word on Follow-Thru Execution Master, Laurence Larry Haughton, wants to put you in project heaven. And MS Office has given him a platform from which to do it. Price: Free. More info here. Place: Online. Sign up here. Date: Feb 28, 2006. Time:…

  5. says

    Rosa, after reading your interview with Lawrence I have definitely put the book on my to do listing. Oh, and I’ll follow through on it :-).
    I concurr with his fourth point: Maintain momentum long after the mood has passed. I could also phrase it “be patient and let the changes take effect before chaning again.” Once problem I have seen too many times is management does not have enough patience to allow the changes to run their course.
    Someone will come in and after their study (usually a quick one in less than 3 months, longer more serious 4-6 months) then the changes start. But change takes time. Kind of like the adage, if you teach an elephant to dance, you better be prepared to dance.
    Unfortunately, they just get the elephant to start dancing and they leave, bringing in yet another manager and another way of doing things, and the cycle is frustrating for those in it. More frustrating for the customers of it, in this particular case, mostly internal customers who have no other choice but to stick around; otherwise, if it was an external customer base, they would have walked out the door along time ago.
    Patience is indeed a valuable virtue!

  6. says

    Free Webinar that you MUST not miss!

    My pal, Laurence Haughton, is giving a free Live Meeting presentation on Tuesday, February 28, at 9am Pacific, 12:00noon Eastern time. The talk is called, The Art of Follow Through. Laurence is amazing to listen to. He is provocative, sassy,

  7. Gloria Ilagan says

    Aloha Rosa,
    Mahalo for introducing this valuable and important truth about gaining trust and respect from those you lead. This book is a must for basics in leadership.
    I’m adding this one to the list! What you say, is what you do…follow through, follow through, follow through and they will follow you!

  8. says

    If It Ain’t Broke – Maintain It

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