The Fruit of Follow-Up: 4 Ways to Be More Effective
In theory, I get excited about the idea of planting a garden and enjoying the fresh fruits and vegetables it produces. The fresh from the yard stuff just tastes better!
Years ago, our family planted a small garden as a school project. We labored together breaking up the hard Georgia clay and adding nutrients to the soil. If you have not had to deal with red clay, you might not appreciate the amount of work that was.
We constructed a fence around the garden to protect it from the deer and hungry bunnies in our yard. We carefully planted the tomatoes, jalapenos, peppers, and other vegetables. Then we immediately watered them well.
With great anticipation, we looked forward to a bountiful harvest. There was just one problem: where we planted the garden was inconvenient to water so watering never happened to the extent that it needed to.
The yield for all our efforts: 1 tomato!
I confess that diminished the time and effort I was willing to invest in future gardening even if the homegrown stuff tastes better!
Later, in a new house and where the sprinkler system automatically watered the garden for me, I attempted another garden. With the help of the automatic sprinkler, a husband willing to help prepare the soil, and a fence to ward off most of our deer and bunny friends we enjoyed success in our little garden.
The yield: Many, many tomatoes and jalapenos that were enjoyed in salsa, guacamole, salads, and more!
You really do reap what you sow! And what you do after you sow matters too!
Follow-up is a little like watering a garden after planting the seed.
Whether you are leading, trying to grow a business, or bring an idea to life follow-up is critical! It is the “after” part that will ultimately determine your effectiveness and success. It is your follow-up that conveys that you took the initial connection seriously. Follow-up demonstrates what matters to you.
Follow-up is necessary when you:
- Give a task to someone
- Oversee a team, group, or individual
- Have meetings or an event
- Meet potential business contacts
- After networking, conferences, conventions, or even chance meetings
- Lead volunteers
Whether you are developing those you lead or seeking to expand your client or customer base, the yield on your investment will depend on how well you “water.” It is what happens “after” that makes the difference!
Following-up intentionally is like watering your garden. The more consistently you water, the better your yield.
What does it take to effectively follow-up?
1. See the value
Successful leadership and business development hinge on relationship. Follow-up is a proactive way of enhancing relationships with those you lead or seek to work with. That’s why failing to follow-up results in a fizzling future for you and for others.
2. Create a system
Set up reminders in your phone, put it on your calendar, or place sticky notes on your computer screen – whatever it takes for you to be reminded to follow-up. If it is a task, check-in around the half way mark to see how things are going. Not only will it convey that that task matters to you, but it will also give you the opportunity to affirm or redirect how things are going before it is too late.
After a networking event, touch base within 24 hours. Periodically reach out and offer a “gesture of thoughtfulness,” relevant information, congratulations – anything that will meaningfully contribute to the relationship.
I volunteered for an organization but they had little or no follow-up. As a result, they had no idea what my experience was like, if they were rocking the volunteer experience or how they might improve it. Even though I was behind the cause, the lack of follow up conveyed that my volunteering was not that important to them, so it has consequently become not that important to me.
3. Stick to the system!
Follow-up is not a one-time thing. It is what happens after something, and keeps on happening! Remember it is what will convey that something matters to you; that people matter to you! It is a chance to remind, reinforce, and refocus. When done with a heart to develop leaders, genuinely meet the needs of others, and deepen relationships, you will be surprised at the harvest! Persistently following-up has powerful potential. It will significantly contribute to your success!
4. Stop thinking you are too busy
Follow-up gets neglected when you are chasing the urgent. Often the urgent is created because we don’t follow-up well. The reality is you are too busy to not establish a habit of following-up! Prioritize; if not the first thing you do each day, assign a specific time for follow-up. Soon you will discover what has been gobbling up your time that you don’t need to be doing anymore.
I confess, I recently threw away a terrific opportunity as a result of my failure to follow-up. This blog is just as much for me as it is for you.
There is no point in working hard and spinning your wheels when it doesn’t produce fruit. All the hard work invested in my first garden that yielded one measly tomato was a poor use of my time. If you are going to go to all the trouble to plant seeds it is worth making sure you have a system in place to water.
Where have you been working hard but harvesting little? What impact would follow-up have in your current situation? What would a bountiful harvest look like?