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Success = (Follow-up x Follow-through)2

September 13, 2013

If you have people working for or with you, I know you run into this. I do.  It’s that experience, that frustrating experience, of handing off something to someone, or requesting something, and then you don’t get a response.  It’s like your request got lost in the Twilight Zone, or the place that missing socks go in the dryer.  It may have got handled, it may not.  Who knows?  You don’t know, and in fact you may even forget to check.  Messy isn’t it?  Professional?  Not the best.  Let me show you how easy it is to fix this.

But before I share this disarmingly simple technique, let me ask you a question.  How much more successful would you be if people followed through on your requests 100%?  How much would it reduce stress in your life?  Would you be kinder to your kids, your wife, maybe the dog?  What would it be like to avoid having embarrassing costs incurred, that were supposed to be discontinued?  How about avoiding having to deal with angry customers who didn’t get a response to their requests?  That’s a good one.

Or think about this.  What would it be like if you followed through on 100%, even 80% of the to-dos you set for yourself?  It might make you a real force to be reckoned with.  Would that be good?  I bet so.

Ok, you’re thinking this could be positive, right?  I mean we all have stuff we haven’t followed up on, from dreams to a list of “honey-do’s” for last weekend, that in the end hurts us or diminishes our life. So here we go, let’s get on with it.

First what to AVOID – targeted at the work environment.

1. Avoid managing requests at work solely by voice and memory.  You’re just asking for stuff to get dropped.  And now that you know that, because you read it in this blog, it’s all your fault. 😉  

2. Avoid writing them down.  What?  Yep.  I bet dollars to donuts, that if you’re writing it, you’re putting it on paper, or if you’re like me, that back of some other paper, or maybe the back of an envelope, and good luck finding that in 2 days, much less having anyone else find it, so they could write on your paper that they followed through on your request.  It just isn’t going to happen.

3. Avoid entering them into some electronic to-do list that only you can see, or worse, you assign it to someone else and lose sight of it when you do… because it’s on their list, not yours. 

OK, now you know what to avoid.  Let’s go over the technique for success!

Think of it this way.  Success is within your reach if you practice this equation. Success = (follow-up on follow-through) squared.  What do I mean by that?

It’s simple.  If you will follow-up on whether or not people followed-through on what you assigned them (if you haven’t had a confirmation that the request has been completed) not once, but twice (that’s what the 2 or ‘squared’ means in the equation), you’ll solve most of the follow-through challenges and get in that 80-100% range across your team.

You see most people don’t follow-up the first time.  They just request or assign and never check back.  Or perhaps they get some email message about follow-through, but with the other 100+ emails in their inbox, they’re hard pressed to remember 2 days later if the request really got handled.  Just think how far ahead of the pack you’ll be, when you follow-up.

So follow-up on the follow-through once if you haven’t been notified.  That will surprise people, especially if this is a new behavior for you.  It also will start to cue people to realize they are supposed to prioritize getting your requests completed, because you’re going to check

And then if you still don’t have notification, follow-up a second time. This really gets the motivation rolling, and or exposes an impasse that probably needs your assistance or consideration to be able to resolve or attack differently.  Remember I said the technique is disarmingly simple?  Just follow-up on follow-through on anything outstanding two times and you have it covered.

You’ve got to use the right technology… and yes I’m going to do an unabashed plug for ManagePro here. See the thing about managing to-dos or whatever they are called at your office, is that they need to get entered and tracked in one central system where you can easily view what’s completed, what isn’t, what you assigned to others, what they have assigned to you, and read what actually happened on the to-dos that were completed (e.g. not just have them disappear or get marked as done without an explanation when it’s needed).

Tip:  Make this Follow-up on Follow-through power move something you practice regularly, consistently.  Avoid “finding the time to do this”, that just means you’ll stop doing it regularly in short order.  Schedule it, it makes it so much easier to be regular, and you need to do this regularly.

Now this may all seem unnecessary, and this blog may seem absolutely weird to you, like you shouldn’t have to use this tip, if people were just doing their job, or if God were smiling down on you from heaven, or the planets were all aligned.  But actually it’s an incredible powerful practice, you just need to dis-engage that emotional part of your belief system that may be screaming, “I shouldn’t have to do this!!!”  Got it?

Now envision this.  Take a minute and take a big easy breath.  You have everything you’re working on in front of you.  This is enjoyable, not frustrating – yea!  It’s empowering.  You and the team you work with has a much better chance of being able to coordinate with and leverage each  other’s strengths. Yes some of it is going better than others, but think about it, what an accomplishment; how much better prepared you are to be successful going forward?  What  a relief.

Bottom Line:  Success for a lot of us gets anchored by our ability to have people around us (as well as ourselves) follow through on what’s assigned or requested.  You’ll be amazed at how successful you can get at this, if you’ll just practice regularly following up twice on to-dos assigned to others.  That typically get’s the follow through rate up to a screaming high of 80-100%.  And yes, you need to manage this all in a single, highly visible repository.  My best suggestion is ManagePro.  Go get it done.


-thanks to Clay Delk’s blog for the image and related perspective as applied to social media

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