The Power of Follow-Up

“I’ll get back to you on that next week!”

“Yes! Our company can do that. No problem! We could deliver it to you in 2 weeks.”

“Why don’t you handle this part of the project and I’ll check in later to see how it’s going.”

“I’ll email you after this conference and we’ll get together.”

“I can make time. It’s important to me.”

Ah yes, the lofty promises we make. We’ve all been on both sides of these types of conversations. While it’s true that most of these promises are rooted in an authentic desire to connect, the lack of follow up cripples our ability to create progress in areas of passion.

Here are some truths about follow-up to consider:

  • Follow-Up Must Be Realistic – Don’t allow the excitement of a moment cause you to over-promise commitment. It is far better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. I usually try to step away from my emotions for a few minutes to consider what I might be promising, especially if it’s something outside of my core competencies. Being upfront and honest about what you bring to the table and how quickly you can bring it to the table is important. If you have little bandwidth or skill-set to do what you’re about to promise, don’t promise it.
  • Follow-Up Needs an Implementable Plan & Rhythm– Knowing how and when you plan to follow up is key. Will you follow up with a phone call? Email? In person? Does the other person know how you will follow up? Afterwards, do you have a system that will remind you to follow up? Will you write it down? Type it in? Use a helpful app or management tool? Is follow up integrated into your work rhythm? I would recommend that you choose one or two ways that you will primarily follow up with people. This will more quickly build a healthy habit for your work flow. If you are delegating work, don’t forget that follow up, without being overbearing, is essential to productivity. Just because you give someone a task doesn’t mean it’s no longer your responsibility. Stay engaged.
  • Follow-Up Needs Practical Tools to Support Its Efforts – There are plenty of apps with calendars, to-do lists, and relationship management designed to help you follow up and get stuff done! Pick one or two and try them out for a season. I would recommend that you immerse yourself in any tool you use for at least 6 weeks to get a sense if it will work for you. If your team is involved, ask a couple of people to experiment with you before implementing it to the entire team. You want to make sure it works first before making it your official management tool.

The most well-intended promise can fall to the ground if follow-up is not a part of the picture. The truth is that everyone is busy. It’s impossible for any person to keep up with everything they’re promising. Nevertheless, we can continue to refine the way we think about and engage follow-up. There’s a world of difference between those who just promise and those who follow through on promises. If you think your words matter, work on follow-up.

How do you do follow-up?

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Charles Lee
Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.