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Having launched a fast-growing, highly profitable business-to-business (B2B) software company with employees in a dozen countries and thousands of customers all over the world, there’s one skill that has been more valuable than anything else: my ability to work well with others. This enables me to get people to consistently deliver the best work product they’re capable of, often times exceeding their own expectations.
And the secret to my success in working with others is surprisingly simple. What’s more: Anyone can develop this skill. In fact, it’s so simple that just about anyone can put it into practice. (We’ll cover later why most people don’t do this consistently, and what you can do to not fall into that trap.)
Regardless of whether you’re a CEO or the most junior person on your team, this skill is extremely valuable (and probably the one skill that can get you the CEO title faster than any other skill).
And you don’t even need to be an incredibly charismatic, emotionally intelligent, highly likable and magnetic personality. So, what is this mysterious skill that I’m talking about?
My surprisingly simple secret superpower: the follow-up.
Following up means that you consistently and persistently move projects forward, and ensure that everyone involved stays on track. Here some examples:
• You work with a designer who’s supposed to deliver an awesome creative for your new campaign. Follow up and check in more than any other client the designer is working with.
• You need a deliverable from your superior at work to progress a project you’re responsible for. Follow up and don’t give them an opportunity to forget what they’ve promised to deliver.
• A prospective customer has told you they’ll discuss things with their team and get back to you. Follow up and remind them of the three most important things they should highlight about your offering when discussing it with their team.
• A coworker is taking too long to do their part in a collaborative project. Follow up and remind them that they can help the team progress by getting this task done.
Following up is not micromanaging.
This doesn’t mean that you need to control every aspect of the work other people do. It doesn’t mean that you constantly push, nudge and nag people to do what you want them to do.
But it does mean that you don’t leave things up to chance. Too many people just assume that the other party will deliver their best work on time, just because they said they would. It’s not like these people were lying to you. They believed what they said when they said it. But then life happened. Other clients happened. A call from their boss happened. A fight with a friend happened. Something unexpectedly broke and needed their immediate attention.
The three golden rules of following up effectively:
1. Always be positive. Most people wait too long to follow up and only follow up when they are feeling stressed about the lack of progress, which leads them to communicate in an unpleasant manner. A negative vibe permeates their entire message and poisons the relationship. Keep it light and upbeat.
2. Be clear and succinct. You should have clearly communicated expectations from the beginning. The point of a follow-up is simply to make sure the project keeps progressing.
3. Follow up more. It’s really that simple. I’ve been preaching the gospel of the follow-up for years, and I still get emails from people telling me the amazing things they’ve accomplished by simply following up more.
What’s the best medium for following up?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter that much. Follow up via email, via phone or send them a text. Ping them on social or via their favorite messaging app. Show up at their door if you have to. The only thing that matters is that they take note and respond, and that there’s always a clearly defined next step.
Stop mind-reading, and start following up more.
After talking with hundreds of people about the power of the follow-up, the one thing I learned is that people don’t follow up enough because they make assumptions about the other person. They assume the other person isn’t interested, willing or capable of getting it done. Or they assume that the other person is totally on top of it, only to be surprised when they don’t get what they expected and when.
Stop assuming, guessing, supposing and imagining what’s going on with the other person. Instead, follow up and communicate. At its core, it’s about creating clarity and alignment. It’s about building and maintaining momentum until you cross the finish line.
March 15, 2019 at 08:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs