Following Through: The Toughest Easy Job

What is as unique, authentic and differentiating to your personal brand as a handwritten thank you note in a world of email, text messages and instant message? The answer: following through on promises and closing the loop, even if conflict is involved or you don’t have the answers.

Friends and colleagues are generally surprised when you take the time to follow-up. How many emails have you received saying, “thanks for getting back to me so quickly?” or “I appreciate your follow-up and for providing that information?” It makes you feel good and you get an extra boost of dopamine in your brain, right?

Take a minute and reflect upon how well you do on follow through. Taking out a piece of paper and pen for an informal “Real Deal” quiz. Rate yourself on a scale from 1-5 (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest).

  1. When you commit to writing a recommendation or review on LinkedIn, how often do you do it?
  2. When you promise to introduce colleagues for networking purposes, how quickly do you do it?
  3. After a conference, do you follow-up with new people that you meet?
  4. When a team member asks you for information, how many times does he have to remind you?
  5. If a sales person sends you a cold-call email, how often do you respond?

Chances are, you thought to yourself when reading this, “oh my goodness. I have room for improvement.” So no need for formal scoring!

Don’t feel bad. We live in a world where multi-tasking is part of our day-to-day survival. We balance work, family, money, household needs, friends, health and exercise, to name a few. Many of us self-talk our way through the day, saying “Everything is great. Everything is awesome. I am great. I am awesome.”

Unfortunately in solving our follow through challenges so that we avoid undermining our personal brands, there is no Program Management Office to help us with our day-to-day follow through. As professionals, it is up to us to make sure that we do what we say. Here are some simple tips:

  • Follow through in the moment: If you are enjoying coffee with someone who needs an introduction, stop, pull out your smart phone and make the introduction. If you do it in the moment, it is up to the other person to kick the ball forward. It’s one of the few times that using your smart phone in a coffee shop or restaurant, or multi-tasking in front of someone else isn’t rude.

 

  • Write it down: Tasks on our to-do-lists, are typically not forgotten and do get done. 
  • No thank you: Saying “no thank you” or declining “a request or invitation is okay. Sometimes we just need to do it and not feel guilty. Imagine if the community bank client would have said to the executive coach, “I’m not much of a LinkedIn user and am sorry that I won’t be able to write you a recommendation. I would be willing to serve as a reference if another client were to call.”

 

  • Lose the temptation to ignore: If someone sends a long email request, ask the individual to cut through the details and be more specific about what they need or want. If the task is too daunting, let the person know that you are struggling and could use extra time, or to talk it through. If you are regretting promising to connect someone with a colleague, let them know that it’s not a good time. Just don’t ignore others.

 

Remember, people do not just listen to what you say. Your credibility, trust and integrity of your personal brand is on the line, based upon what you do. Imagine a game of Simon Says. If you were to say to your group, “Simon Says, put your hands on your hips” and you put your hands on your head, what do you think would happen? More than half the group would put their hands on their heads.

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