Mastering the Art of Follow Up
“I’ll follow up with you tomorrow.” Only that follow up never happens. How does that make you feel? It makes no difference what the follow up was going to be. It can be a call back from a job interview all the way to your work associate following up to tell you if they can be in a meeting. Besides being unprofessional, a failed follow up doesn’t make you feel good; it makes you feel forgotten and unimportant. Hopefully, those are feelings you don’t create with others.
The follow up is especially important because it is one thing that demonstrates your integrity. Follow up is also important for several other reasons:
- It helps to keep business moving forward. We can all work with some delay in our various business processes as long as we know that the person we need something from will follow up with whatever is needed from them.
- It keeps people accountable. When you follow up with someone on a commitment they made, it will keep them more focused on the deliverable and staying accountable.
- It is about integrity and trust. If you’ve failed to follow up on something enough times, you’ve trained those people to not trust that you will ever do what you say.
- Some jobs require it. If you are in certain jobs, you have to be the one to make the phone call or drop into some one’s office to follow up. This happens because of the role you and the other person play. If you don’t do the follow-up, the business won’t move forward, nor will your career.
- It can be a tool for your job. Follow up is an important tool to my job as a coach, just as it was when I was a manager. Sometimes people rely on your ability to follow up to keep things moving or to help them through a process. It’s critical to many jobs.
If you happen to be a person who lacks good follow up skills, don’t worry; here are five things you can do to go from bad to great:
- List your follow ups. Many people have a running ‘to-do’ list. This trick is just like that only it falls in the category of following up. List the required follow-up, put the date it needs to be done and check it off after you’ve done it. People will think you are a rock star.
- Put it on your calendar. Most people have some type of calendar and calendar reminder system on their phone. When you have something to follow up on, don’t try to remember it; simply put it in your calendar to ping you at the appropriate time.
- Use your files. If you keep a file for a project or person, make a sticky note and put it in the file to remind you to follow up on a specific thing related to that file. This will only work if you refer to the file somewhat frequently.
- Don’t get sticky note crazy. Some people will generate hundreds of sticky notes and put them all over the place to help them remember to follow up on things. When you do this, it loses the impact of the sticky note as a reminder. The eye gets used to the clutter of sticky notes and can now easily ignore them.
- Don’t rely on your memory. Most people can only juggle a limited amount of things in their memory at any given time. Unless you are one of those rare people who remember everything, skip trying to remember your follow ups. It can’t be relied upon. Instead of trying to remember to get into the habit of using one of the simple tips mentioned above.
Follow up is a professional tool used in all jobs from restaurant servers to CEOs. If you are good at it, you will be branded as a trust-worthy peer and professional with whom other people will want to work.