How many times have you proposed an idea, requested information, tentatively scheduled a date or been promised a return phone call? And of those instances, how many times have you been left hanging? There’s a good chance that at least 50% of the time you’re waiting for an update on a matter of importance, you’re left in the dark. Besides negligence on the other person’s behalf, the reason you may not be getting any results from your “call to action” is because you’re not practicing effective follow-up.
There’s an art to effective follow-up that dances on the line between assertive and overbearing. So be cautious that you’re not hounding someone. Instead, let them know that you’re serious about receiving valuable feedback. There are methods you can use to practice strong follow-up. Here are a few tips:
2) Value the other person’s time: Your priorities may not be priority for someone else. It’s important that you keep this in mind when requesting and waiting for follow-up. Although you’re thinking 10 minutes should be reasonable time for someone to respond to an urgent matter, the other person may be thinking 24 hours is reasonable. So wait 24 hours for some type of response before doing any follow-up. You want to be effective, not annoying.
3) Limit the back and forth: Sometimes solid connections and feedback get lost in several chains of emails, phone tag and rescheduled meetings. Eliminate the back and forth by gradually progressing your follow-up. Email your request, then call to check in. Schedule an in-person meeting (with all of the resources and materials you need in order to prevent ineffective meetings) then make a final phone call to seal the deal (if you haven’t done so at the in-person meeting). Effective follow-up is all about progressing your status.
4) Sometimes your answer is “NO“: We can’t control the final outcome of someone’s input. Perhaps you’ve done everything correctly and you’re good at what you do. That doesn’t mean that your follow up will always result in a “yes” answer. However, be sure to ask what you could do differently to improve your chances for next time.
5) Suggest someone else to handle the task: If the person you’re trying to connect with says (or shows signs of) being too busy, ask if you can include someone else in the conversation. Don’t step on their toes by excluding them or going around them. Simply ask if they can include a team member who would help to get the ball rolling. For instance, if you’re planning a meeting and the director is to busy to provide input, suggest getting the assistant and project manager involved. Everyone is welcomed to chime in and now you have a team of people working on your request.