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The Art of Follow-up

, October 30, 2014, 0 Comments

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I once lent a treasured book to a dear friend. On checking with her two –weeks later, she was still reading it and promised to return it in a week’s time. Weeks turned into months; still no book. I did not want to be perceived as irritating, this was a close friend and so I kept silent. She might have forgotten all about the book or may still be reading it but I eventually moved to another city, of course minus my precious book. True, Follow-up is imperative in a corporate set-up but as my own experience shows even the simplest of things in our everyday life need follow-up.

We often procrastinate on a follow-up or we evade those who follow-up with us. We initiate, sometimes confront, and then step back. Not gaining only losing. Follow-up is an un-appreciated art which most of us have learn, NOT in management school but through past experiences, both good and bad. So let’s take a closer look at this facet of delegation and delivery which is almost always inevitable and unavoidable …


  • The urgency of the task
  • The relationship between two or more people or parties involved in the follow-up (friendly, professional, a history of bad performance, past misunderstandings etc.)
  • The attitude on either side (lackadaisical, procrastinator, promptness, perfectionist, eye for details etc.)
  • The intentions and authenticity of the parties involved


At the initial stage of the task itself have a deadline in mind
Following-up is a secondary level activity .At the onset you need to have an outer deadline in mind. Your own thoughts need to be organised and clear.

Getting the other party’s buy-in
People rarely want to put themselves out for a task that is not to their advantage in some way. However since everything is not about you and your priorities, you need to demonstrate to the other person the upside of working with you.

Getting a commitment
Once you’ve got the buy-in, the next step is to have some sort of handshake or sign off. Of course this depends on the urgency and vitality of the task. Accordingly the sign off could range from a formal document, email, sms to even a verbal agreement.

Verbal agreements are okay only if you have worked with the person before and there is a certain degree of mutual trust or say a familial bond. Also according to me verbal is acceptable, only if the implications of failure are not too high reaching or earth shattering. Otherwise it would be advisable to have some sort of commitment in writing.

 Delegation doesn’t absolve you from your responsibility
How often have we heard these words, “But I thought he would do it!”, “I clearly explained everything to you.”, “I think I clearly told you that I needed the information by this date. “

Delegating is an option available to simplify things, to get things done faster. It doesn’t mean that you have transferred you responsibility too.


Early bird gets the worm
Don’t wait till the last minute .If a report, a payment etc. is due on a particular day and receiving it is imperative to your welfare and deadlines make it happen.

Initiate follow-up at least a week to ten days prior, depending upon the urgency and complexity of the task .Of course when the window of implementation itself is very small (e.g. the same day) the luxury of time is marginal.

It time to tackle the bull by the horn
You’ve taken the first step. But are rewarded with a complete silence from the other end. No response whatsoever! No assurances, no queries, no excuses –nothing! Total radio silence.

What do you do? Pick up the phone. Fix a meeting. Alternatively be spontaneous and catch up with them unannounced.

Get serious about follow-up or your task will be relegated to the forgotten and bypassed wastelands of ‘NOT DONE or NOT IMPORTANT’ forever. It’s the – now or never time for you.

Let perseverance be your engine
Once you have started don’t just walk away.

Follow-up requires a degree of persistence and efficacy

Live and Learn
Everyone has their own style of doing things and people mostly stay true to their personas.

Once you have understood a person’s modus operandi, pre-empt problems and adjust your working and follow-up style to ensure that you don’t face problems in future.


Don’t upset the applecart
Initiate follow-up in a non –intrusive manner .The first reminder could be in the form of a sms/email etc. It is a great ‘First Step’ for follow up.

It indicates that you are serious and committed to the task at hand and at the same time respect the other person’s time, space and other commitments.

Misplaced aggressiveness can harm relations beyond repair.

Once a word leaves your mouth, you cannot chase it back even with the swiftest horse.
Remember this, when the other party’s lackadaisical and half-hearted response bothers you. Keep your temper in control. Handle the situation with grace and don’t say things that you might regret at leisure.

Being gracious but firm keeps the door open for a compromise even when relations might be on the verge of a break-down. It’s not about your ego but about getting things done.

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
So use the ‘BOSS’ card judiciously. It should be a penultimate step or a last resort.

Post the involvement of the ‘BOSS’ a blame game will start and you might not necessarily escape unscathed.

There is a strong likelihood that your shortcomings in the project or task will be up for discussion. So always make sure that, you’ve done all you were supposed to do on the project too before blindly following -up

Most of all, people dislike working with a person who has a constant practice of involving their senior’s.

Additionally this habit might be viewed as your inability to deal with the situation on your own steam.

So be prudent. Keep the higher-ups involved and interested but refrain from being a whiner and grumbler. Their support from the initial phase itself will ensure delivery with minimum follow-up.

Don’t forget the THANK YOU
We’ve talked at length about following up. For those who do deliver on time, as per specifications etc., don’t take them for granted. Self-driven and self-motivated individuals are rare so show your appreciation!

Delegation and delivery is not only about follow-up and retribution for non-performance it is also about appreciation and rewards.