First you set a follow-up time:
Should it be formal? Should it be casual?
Should it be a checkup or a checkback?
Should it be based on the calendar or on a critical event?
That s the thinking you do up front. Next comes the actual act of following up. Guess what: The biggest problem with following up is not that we do it too often despite the fact that many of us have felt micromanaged from time to time. The biggest problem is that we don t follow up at all. We set plans, create follow-up dates, and then sort of let them drop. How could that happen?
Our first problem is that we tend to forget. Life is so fast paced, full, and busy, we can t keep all the balls in the air at the same time. How are we ever going to remember to follow up on all the promises that other people make? Or that we make? The answer
is that we can t, at least not without help. To keep your promises in front of you, do the following:
Put follow-up dates and times on your calendar.
Use sticky notes or computer cues to remind yourself.
Put follow-up times on your agendas .
Reminding yourself to do what is effective is essential in busy environments and times. Families tend to be particularly bad at this. How many people use computers and other electronic devices when giving assignments to children or loved ones? To most of us that would seem cold and too businesslike: Dad, I m your daughter , not an employee. Nevertheless, the times are changing. Find methods , electronic or other.
Another reason people frequently fail to follow up on assignments is that they want to be seen as nice. As one interviews people in organizations all over the world, it s interesting how frequently the word nice comes up. Question: How would you describe your organization s culture? Response: Nice. In this case, the word has switched meanings from pleasant to disease-like.
adj. A pleasant, nonconfrontational attitude that eventually kills you
People want to feel at ease, not stressed. Holding others accountable, particularly if you have to be honest, is stressful. So individuals rationalize and choose niceness over following up. It s not a sellout; backing off is the right thing to do.
Of course, you can believe this semi-tortured logic only if you believe that being honest and holding people to their promises are inherently stressful and bad. Throughout this book we ve
tried to make the point that people who confront crucial problems are both candid and courteous. They are honest but not brutally honest. You can follow up with people and be a decent human being. In fact, the converse is also true: If you don t follow up, you re being unkind to everyone. Allowing failure eventually destroys results and relationships.