Leaders have shared their frustrations when dealing with parents who don’t follow through. Paper work is not completed, dry clothes are not brought in, or payments are late.
So what can you do?
1. Have the positive expectancy that people will follow through — be optimistic.
This is where it all begins. Just having the positive expectancy that people will follow through will be highly rewarding. First of all you’re not drenching yourself with negative expectations which usually only leads to negative results. And you’re opening up your creative channels, which allows you to take positive action and get positive results.
Once you have positive expectancy — you can implement a very powerful strategy that I call I look forward to. Let me explain how it works. One center I worked with was having a problem with late tuition payments. The Directors at this center did not like asking the parents for money or nagging them about their late payments. So I developed a memo that contained the following statement three times – I look forward to… This letter and this approach helped the Directors communicate positively and effectively with their parents. And yes this letter started with stating I look forward to and it ended with another reaffirming I look forward to and there was another one in the middle. The letter is filled with positive expectancy and it’s working great!
2. Communicate the importance of what you’re requesting with enthusiasm. This is an important step in getting people to follow through on your requests. If people aren’t aware of the importance of what you’re requesting from them, they will most likely procrastinate as long as they can. Even if they are aware of why their following through is so important, they may still procrastinate or simply forget. So communicate what you need in an enthusiastic way.
3. Positively acknowledge the correct behavior. During my keynote presentations and workshops I talk extensively about positively reinforcing our teams when they exhibit the behaviors we would like them to display more often. The same principles apply to parents or basically to anyone.
B.F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal positively reinforced for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retains what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that the same applies to humans.
I challenge you to think about how you can positively reinforce those who follow through with the information you request. Some simple ideas may include providing candy or soda and chips when the requested information is received. Yes — I said this is simple but sometimes some of the simplest strategies (that only take a few minutes and a few cents) avail tremendous results.
Through using positive reinforcement, one director I worked with inspired parents to follow through on paper work that needed to be completed in a timely fashion.
The challenge was to get Spring paper work completed and returned in a timely fashion. She asked parents nicely – and there was no follow through. She posted notes up everywhere – and there was no follow through. She used “I statements” to express her frustration – and still no follow through.
But the situation was not hopeless – not yet anyways. She thought: “If positive reinforcement works with my team, it should also work with parents.” So instead of nagging and begging, she decided to positively acknowledge parents who followed through.
She created a bulletin board to publicly acknowledge all parents who met her deadline. Since it was nearing March, she created a clover board in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. The board was located by the front door – so parents couldn’t miss it. It simply read “Thank You!” Then, as parents turned in the requested information before the deadline, their names were written on bright green clovers and posted up on the clover board for everyone to see. As names started accumulating – parents would stop, look, and read the names that were written on the clovers. Some parents noticed that their names weren’t on the board. This sparked their curiosity. They wanted a clover with their name on it! Parents began to ask the Director why only certain names were placed on the board. She told them why and shortly thereafter – she started getting completed paper work from all parents. What a great idea!
4. Put something in the envelope. Another strategy to help increase follow through is to put something in the envelope — a fun token of your appreciation for their business. Perhaps a stress ball or a pen with your program’s name on it.
Another idea is to attach a piece of gum or another small incentive to the information you would like returned to you. One center that implemented this idea received twice as many completed forms back than normal. Also remember when mailing information, different sized envelopes and different color sheets of paper stand out more than regular mail and may yield a higher response rate.