Based on last week’s post, you know why it’s important to follow-up; however, you may be getting stuck when it comes to actually doing it. Even though we philosophically agree that follow-up is important, it’s easy to get so focused on our next project, meeting or commitment that the follow-up for what we just did ends up buried at the bottom of the “to do” list. Do you find that it is easier to focus on what is next than reflecting on what just happened? Do you find yourself avoiding follow-up because you want to make sure you do it well and you never quite have the time to devote to a “proper” follow-up?
If we are going to maintain trust, ownership and participation, we have to find a way to follow-up with our teams and workgroups. And we can do this with just a small amount of time invested! Join me as we consider 3 ways you can follow-up in an impactful way without becoming overwhelmed.
- Brief email with bullet points. Sending a brief email with bullet points that outlines action items or next steps is a great way to show that you listened to the answers when you asked them questions. Even if you haven’t had time to fully evaluate all the responses, it’s important to send a follow-up email thanking your workgroup or coalition for their participation and their feedback. Provide one or two key points (or themes) that you heard and let them know that you will follow-up further in the coming weeks. Caution** If you say you will follow-up in a few weeks, you need to do it! Be sure to schedule time on your calendar to work on what needs to be done so that you CAN follow-up as promised. It’s critical for you to do what you say you are going to do!
- Text message. If your follow-up relates to one or two people – or a small group, text messages can work well. This is also especially effective when your team members are not very responsive to email. A text message can take very little time and yet be really impactful. A text message is a way to check-in with your workgroup or team member about something specific and to find out if you agree on the next steps. Perhaps they told you about a grant they were planning to submit or that they were going to present at a meeting on a project you worked on together. Or maybe they were about to have their first grandchild or go on an international trip. It’s amazing how impactful it can be – and how much we can build or maintain relationships – when we take the time to ask questions, listen to those questions and follow-up on the little things! Caution** Sometimes text messages can end up “lost” after you have sent and responded. Find a way to capture the notes and next steps in another way as well. Perhaps you put it in a task manager (my favorite new one is todoist!), mark your calendar or you make notes in a document and save it to that project. Figure out what works for best for you!
- Schedule your next meeting. Note that I suggest scheduling this first. Of course, you still need actually host the meeting (perhaps it’s a video chat, webinar, phone call or maybe in-person) as well; however, by scheduling it, you show that you are listening and that you are making a formal plan to share what you learned from them. It also helps keep the follow-up on your priority list AND that of your team or workgroup. Once you schedule the meeting, you can be sure you schedule time before that meeting to organize the feedback and recommendations you received from your group. Having a deadline – such as a follow-up meeting – is a great way to keep you following up! 🙂 Even if you have a deadline, you may have to make adjustments. I recently scheduled a follow-up meeting and two weeks prior to the meeting, I realized it conflicted with a pretty big conference (that came up after we scheduled it) AND I didn’t have time to really follow-up and get things organized during that meeting. We decided to move the meeting to a later date to avoid the conflict and give us more time to get ready to follow-up appropriately.
So what about you? How have you found easy ways to follow-up after asking questions from your teams, workgroups or coalitions?
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