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How to get other people to follow up

January 30, 2012 - Management, Managing People
How to get other people to follow up

Let’s face it, follow up is tough. Be it calling other people or trying to remember to complete a piece of work. Following up is not in the sweet spot for a lot of people. Never fear, though, you can get other people to follow up with you with a few simple techniques.

The best way to get follow up is to be specific. You need to be specific on what you need, and when you need it by. It sounds simple, but most people don’t go far enough when being specific. Think about this email example:

“Joe – we need to talk. When are you available to meet next week?”

A question like this requires the other person to do the following:

  1. Locate or open their calendar
  2. Evaluate all appointments and open spots for next week
  3. Determine if there is a fit, and when
  4. Determine how long you may need to meet
  5. Open their email and draft a response that lists several options for meeting times
  6. Communicate several times back and forth about selecting a good date/time to meet
That turns out to be at minimum 6 steps, 2-3 of which are challenging. There’s a lot to evaluate too! Too many decisions + not enough information = decision paralysis. Save your colleague, customer or friend the aggravation.
Consider the following:
“Joe, do you have fifteen minutes next Tuesday at 1:00 to go over the sales figures from last month? If not, how about Wednesday at 4:30?
I know your busy, so if I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll assume meeting on Tuesday is good for you. I’ll call Tuesday AM to confirm.”
Here’s the steps:
  1. Open/locate calendar
  2. Find next Tuesday
  3. Determine if meeting is possible
  4. Reply yes/no
There are a few important techniques at work here:
  1. Propose both a question and a solution – this let’s you share your ideas and move the conversation forward without asking tough questions.
  2. Make your request a Yes or No decision. Yes and no are easier questions to answer.
  3. Provide enough background on the request so that you can minimize back and forth responses.
  4. The addition of an alternative also minimizes the ping pong of messages going back and forth.
  5. (Optional) Include consequences of a non-response. This isn’t about threatening, but instead provides a way to move the conversation forward even if no response is given.
There are other ways to drive someone to follow up, but if you make it easier for them to do what you ask – you are way more likely to get results. It may take a little bit more work up front, but the time and aggravation saved avoiding the runaround will be well worth it.
You could apply the same skills to the question: “What do you want to eat for dinner?” and save yourself a lot of frustration by simply proposing a solution.

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