The Art of Follow-Up



I was reminded again how important follow-up is to our success as professionals.  Taking a moment to finish the job and let folks know the outcome.  A former colleague’s favored the line was “DONE – NEXT” and this simplicity always made me smile.   It is a small practice, but one that will get you noticed.  It has been said that the fortune in in the follow-up.

Sometimes the follow-up is favorable, and this is the easiest news to deliver. Who does not love to start a conversation with Congratulations?   There are many more conversations that will contain more difficult messages to share.  I remember a sage leadership faculty member offering his perspective; I have yet to encounter bad news that began to smell better over time.  Commit to deliver the tough news in an appropriate time frame and in the proper context for grace.  Keep in mind that you have rehearsed this message, but the receiver is now hearing this for the first time.  Allow them to reflect on what you have said, leaving the door open for follow-up, added questions and conversation.

As professionals, if you have dropped the ball on something, own up to the error and ask for forgiveness.  I respect this in a colleague.  Too often we say, “no problem”, and while this might be the case in the instance at hand, there are many reasons for us to set deadlines as most projects have many moving parts.   Set the right expectations.

Follow-up is about respect.  Make no assumptions.   If you need some added information before you can make a decision or share an answer, please ask for the grace of time.  At the very least, acknowledge the receipt of the request and offer a proposed time-frame for a response.  

In the case of candidates and feedback, sometimes the time-tables are off and managers want to have a bit more time and discussion before making a hiring decision.  If we are heading into a weekend, and I have no news to share, I place a call and say just that so that folks can enjoy their weekend.   A simple acknowledgement can really make a healthy difference for your team and co-workers.  Poor communication is at the root of many work place issues.  Sometimes we need to step away from our keyboard and head to someone’s office to discuss items or maybe take a walk and talk.  The ability to see your face, hear your words and feel your attitude can be the differentiator.

With practice, you will continually improve your communication skills.  These skills can transfer and these learnings can be felt by your friends and family too.  I wish you many follow-ups that start with Congrats, but realistically more will begin with a different tone.  Offer the respect you would wish to be extended, share the message and be willing to keep the door open for further discussions. Practice proactive communication and the art of the follow-up.



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: