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The Rodney Brim Blog

GTD Performance, Personal Branding & Follow-up

April 13, 2011
manageprouser

You may not believe this, you may not even see it, but avoiding the
face-plant
of no follow-up is the single biggest move you can make to
avoid losing your own personal power or brand at work.  This is true
whether you are the leader or the led.  By-the-way, your likelihood to
focus on next can be your downfall when it comes to follow-up.
First let me share two quick stories, and then I’ll explain what I mean.

Story 1:  The first story (these are both true), occurred when I was in high
school.  I was in the “out of town” high school bleachers, which means they
were about 1/10 of the home side.  It was a football game with the cross-town
rivals, and during half time some guys ran across the field from the other side
and apparently tried to steal our cheer leader’s pom poms, or goose them or
something.  It was hard to tell amidst all the yelling and commotion.

They ran back across the field and one guy on our side stood up on the
sidelines and yelled to everyone, “Come on guys, we’re not going to let them
get away with that.”  He then wheeled about and began walking across the
50 yard line toward the home town bleachers.  The band hadn’t taken to the
field yet for half time, so he had an open path.  Can you picture it?

He was intent on next, looking for some justice if not vengance.  Thousands
of people in the stands staring at him didn’t seem to shorten his stride.

He did, however, forget to check (follow-up) on whether or not anyone had
heeded his call and was following him.  Thankfully apparently somewhere
mid-field this thought must have occurred to him, as he was seen peering
backwards over his shoulder, only to see no back-up.  Where are  those
legions when you need them, anyway?

He was last seen veering off to the shadows behind the goal posts on the side
of the field.  I thought, “Boy that must have been embarrassing.  Could have
been worse!”  It made an impression for the rest of my life… obviously since
I’m telling you this story.  But let’s go on to story 2, it gets better.

Story 2: I’m working with a CEO to launch ManagePro as the management
software for their business
.  As we enter and exit the launch meeting with
the management team, count the number of no follow-up face plants that
occur:
1. The CEO hasn’t followed through on completing the final adjustments
to the business management design in ManagePro, so the layout looks
incomplete and not sufficient to their team.  Score one face plant.

2. The CEO starts the meeting late and leaves early, without clarifying
exit expectations, nor following up on the fuzzy expectations the next day
or the next week.  Score two for one.

3. The staff, sensing they have landed in no follow-up land, act out in
the most common three options: direct defiance, passive-non-compliance
and engaging in adolescent distractions… its a circus, but then that’s
what happens when there are no follow-ups.  I’m busy trying to not get
stepped  on by the elephants or in the stuff they leave behind.  Score
multiple face plants and counting.

It doesn’t take much skill at guessing to estimate what the effect was on the
power of that launch.  The face plants decimated the launch.  No one took
it seriously.  One person was even doing hand tricks on the side.  I’m not
kidding.

Lack of follow-up can lead to embarrassing outcomes, and to inadvertently
teaching those to whom you assign tasks, that they don’t have get it done
at least not until you begin following-up.  Either way, the performance
outcome is not good, and what’s worse, we lose personal power, our requests
and intent lose leverage, and our respect meter slips downward.

So, enjoy my stories, but it would be even better if you and I learned not to
do the face plant of no follow-up.  It doesn’t matter how tantalizing
“Next” is,
don’t skimp on the follow-up. I know this is hard for all of
us entrepreneurs, visionaires, deal guys, sales people… the list goes on.

If I could flip this in reverse, I would write it this way.  It’s very simple.
To avoid losing personal power when working with others, only assign what
you
are prepared to follow-up. Maybe that will register better.  There are
any number of things to do to build your personal brand (be brilliant, be
timely, deliver big outcomes, be insightful, be trustworthy and connected),
but this is the big number one thing to avoid so that you don’t lose the
personal power you work so hard to acquire.

Bottom Line

Not following through when it comes to our own commitments, and not
following-up when it comes to tasks we assign to others, are both must-avoid
face plants that dramatically reduce the power of our personal brand.  In
fact its one of the quickest ways to lose power and teach others to disregard
what you request.  Do yourself a favor, only assign (to yourself and to others)
what you are prepared to follow-up.

 

 


17 Comments. Leave new

The third reaction that was described in the story about how the employees reacted in the sales meeting where the leader was unprepared reminds me of how the students in a high school class react once they realize the substitute teacher is not strict or prepared with a lesson. I guess it is a natural juvenile reaction, but one that professional adults who are subordinates revert to when they find themselves not being challenged or with no responsibility. This is sound advice for anyone in charge of a team and leading a sales or strategy meeting. You don’t want to be in front of the group and feel like the proverbial substitute teacher.

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Jay, the image of being the “unfortunate” substitute teacher probably resonates with all of us, thanks for sharing that’s vivid.

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This is so true. I was a supervisor once and my problem was I wanted to follow through on to much so I didn’t delegate the way I should have and tried to do everything my self which didn’t get as much work done as I should have. Face Plant! The thing I learned is let go, delegate, and measure twice cut once.

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Whoever was the person in story 1 who found himself all alone on the field (not sure if it was the story teller himself) must have felt like he was standing there with his pants down. That’s kind of like how a leader of any meeting would feel if they suddenly realize that they have lost control or the meeting has gone awry in some way. I would think anyone who faces the task of leading a company meeting would be so terrified of being ridiculed or disrespected, that the possibility of this happening would motivate them enough to over prepare and devise contingency plans for a worse case scenario. I know that is exactly what I would do because I would be very motivated by such a fear.

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Guillermo,
I got to witness that from the safety of the front row of the bleachers in the pep band section. But the memory has lasted over 40 years. And yes, the fear of embarrassment or negative recognition is a powerful motivator. Actually I want to blog on that, because you can put it to a productive use to create better meetings rapidly (now when will I get time to write that blog 😉

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That story sounds like something that would happen to me. I have learned over the years that follow-up and commitment are two of the biggest things you should always make sure you do. Your commitment to follow up on something shows that you have integrity and character and will do what you say you are going to do. These are all things that people are looking for in a business owner or future employee anymore because they are so hard to come by. This has been a great read and I appreciate the reminder to watch myself and not face plant.

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Thanks for that advice. The article helped me to resolve a quandary I had recently. I happen to be thinking about follow up because I was trying to decide whether to move forward with promoting some new services to my client even though I have not fully completed the development of the web site. I am 95 percent done and the site is certainly operational. So my doubts stemmed more from a principle stand point – the idea that I should first complete the web site before selling the client additional services. So I what I did was follow up’ with my client and I asked questions which he gladly answered and in so doing, provided me with the one answer I sought most. By the way, I decided to proceed with offering the additional services based on his feedback and the fact that completion of the site depended only on a few design details.

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I often find that when you take the time to follow up, that patience and commitment pay off in the way of a new sale (if it is a new customer) or an upgrade to further products or services. Sometimes it takes several follow ups to gain the confidence of a client, but once you earn it, they will often be more than glad to continue spending money on your expertise. I guess patience is really a virtue in the realm of customer service.

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My field may not be related to your industry or that of your clients, but I have learned my lessons by not following up and how it can cause a service provider to lose customers who would have otherwise become regular clients. When I was a novice in the web development field, I worked as an independent contractor and freelancer and it took several repeated errors on my part, namely, not following up with my clients to fully realize all of the recurring income I could have earned by selling extra services such as plug ins, web marketing services and other throw-ins like those.

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I think following up with a converted customer only makes sense, but somehow, many people fall into this pitfall all the time. When I was less experienced and perhaps with less patience, I would focus only on making the quick cash and once I earned it, I would get careless about satisfying any future need my customer may have expressed. This was a mistake I chalk up to being younger and nave. I guess I didn’t appreciate the real value of a converted customer. You have to struggle or go through a difficult time in business to be able to appreciate how valuable a converted sale is. It is a potential regular client which means recurring revenue. Today, I understand that and try to stay in touch with clients by always asking questions to determine what their continuing needs may be.

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Great perspective, following up just adds value to any business process whether it is in sales, or reviewing what you assigned to others… or yourself to get accomplished.

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Follow up is a vital aspect in business, especially if you told someone you were going to do something. Follow up with them and let them know what is going on. Follow up face plants can make you or break you in the business world because it shows what kind of character you have. If you want to succeed build your character on good morals and doing what you say you are going to do. You blog is great and you can tell you put a lot of thought and time into it. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

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Thanks for the comment, yes I believe follow-up in what puts the “signal strength”, to use an engineering term, in priorities and tasks assigned. Check out my latest blog and see if you agree. http://www.performancesolutionstech.com/getting-work-done-through-people/

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I have to admit to admit to being guilty of the very thing the author cautions against doing. I had been developing a web site for a client that was mostly complete, but it was the prospect of selling additional extensions that I was excited about, especially because my client had expressed interest in paying for it. I was in regular contact via email with my client until a friend had a car accident, which sent her to the hospital. I went to stay with her for a month to help her recover from her injuries, but during that time, I neglected my completion of the web site and didn’t maintain close contact. Since I returned home, I have emailed the client, but haven’t heard back from him. This has left me wondering if he may have lost his excitement or worse, hope in me. Don’t let this happen to you and make sure you always follow up and maintain communication with your clients.

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Thanks for the post. It’s quite true that others will brand you.

When I was in my previous business, my customers were branding me in their own words which I didn’t know. When I left that business, these customers came to me with all sort of words (Positive ones).

So I know that’s how they see me. And all I hold tightly is to deliver what I promise. It came up differently for them. Still I’m thankful for those nice comments from them.

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This is an amazing article I can not believe a CEO would face plant so badly as to do no follow up or anything. You have pointed out a lot of things that I think a lot of businesses do and some that I hope I never do. I have made a list of things that cause face plants and I have posted them everywhere in the office for everybody to look at as a reminder, because a big thing in our company is customer satisfaction and a big part of that is follow up. Your advice was exceptional and I hope to see more advice from you real soon I really enjoy reading it and finding new stuff to share with my employees.

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One of the more valuable lesson I have learned over the years through experience is that it is more important to follow up with all requests or inquiries from your clients, regardless of whether you have the time to take on a new project or the expertise or any other reason that a less experienced or diligent service provider to see as an excuse for not taking the time to follow up. This has happened to me where I was so caught up with another project that I neglected a seemingly unimportant email, which in hindsight, might have led to additional jobs.

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