What Do the Words “Lack of Follow Through” Actually Mean?

No, I’m really asking

4 min readJun 7, 2021


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

“You don’t follow through!”

My husband said this about me during family therapy yesterday. Then, today, it came up again in a team meeting. You’d think I’d be used to it by now as people have been saying this about me my entire life.

It’s an easy allegation.

It’s also super triggering.

I know cause I just came home and cried.

Let’s give a bit of a picture of where I’m sitting right now. I’m writing this on a green Velvet sofa in our house on an island off the coast of Maine. I’m the author of a successful book, a former Managing Partner at one of the world’s most famous design firms where I started multiple successful businesses. And in my early fifties, I don’t have to work again if I don’t want to (sorta).

So let’s check the tape: I wrote a fairly successful book, I made all of my money by working for it. (See also: My parents were not wealthy.) I ran an extremely successful set of businesses. Aside from the fact I am proud of all of this, I think objectively speaking it’s safe to say that does not paint a picture that suggests Lack of Follow Through.

So where’s that coming from?

When it’s said to me, I suspect the phrase exposes three myths about what the term “to follow through” actually means and why we get it wrong.

1. If you’re doing it alone, you’re doing it wrong

Sometimes doing it yourself is great, but mostly, it’s better together.

One of my great joys (and skills) is finding interesting people, mutts really, who are crazy skilled micro-geniuses. By working together we can make the most amazing, hairbrained and gorgeous things happen. Trying to do it all yourself is not only more work, it’s way less fun.

I know I need a team, a village, an island in order to follow through.

If I lacked the ability to follow through, I’d try to do everything on my own, instead, I choose to build a team and it’s glorious. So when people say “you lack follow through” my question is yes, but did it get done?




Founder of Dust&Co, senior design advisor for Rockefeller Foundation & former global managing partner of IDEO — fan of words and good conversation.