The art of the follow-up: When people show their true colours

eve ash
There’s a follow-up and there’s being a pest. Nobody wants nagging reminders, especially when already given feedback. Persistent emails usually get trashed. However, NO follow-up is such a wasted lost opportunity.

Following up is also the reaching out after a problem to make sure someone is okay, or when you have promised to do something for someone.

During a follow-up is when people show their true colours. It’s not necessarily confined to checking whether someone is happy with a service or purchase, but these hues of the service rainbow are useful indicators of whether transactions are succeeding and the nature of the relationship.

Gold – Sparkle with surprises

These people sparkle and shine. They are on time or early to complete work, they surprise you by doing extra in all manner of tasks. They make new links and deliver unanticipated extras. They do what they promise and more because they listen to needs and anticipate issues and requirements. They send links and maps to make your life easier, they make referrals, they get prices, they make comparisons and do the extra market research that surprises you. They remember the special things that make a difference. They are efficient and timely and they understand the art of timing or when it is best to follow up.

GreenGood job on time

They deliver on promises: on time, quality work and are easy to work with. They may not take a lot of time to do all the extras Gold will do, but they are very reliable in their follow-ups. Green is definitely good and in fact, is the more realistic and desirable standard we should aim for in the workplace and when dealing with others. Look after these people and they most certainly will continue to look after you.

Blue – Eventually it’s usually good

This person does a good job – but with a lot of effort and ‘noise’ on their part, perhaps resulting in some angst for those around. These types may be very talented but are temperamental, often “difficult”. They may be inconsistent – surprising you with gold one day then just when you are moving them up in your estimation, they lose the ball. They miss important follow-ups, they upset someone and are unreliable. Don’t totally rely on them as they may let you down. Monitor their performance.

OrangeBeware of issues

Like the warning traffic light, caution is required. You may have detected something not quite right in the first few seconds (unconsciously) in a service interaction with this person. It’s something about the way they behave: evasive eye contact, maybe too much waffling, delays, excuses on occasion. Then what transpires is a very poor follow up, forgotten agreements, and you are left with having to manage the relationship. Learn to follow your instinct and set specific requirements. If they are in your team, set strong targets and monitor their work closely.

PurpleThere are problems

It’s exhausting and painful to work with these people as it’s all emotion. Nothing is easy. Everything feels like hard work. Communication is poor. You’ve already decided you’ll give this person a miss as fast as you can, never to return. Or if they work for you, you’ve started managing them out the door. They may not be bad people per se, but who needs all that grief? They need to work out where and with whom their problems lie and fix up their relationships. If you’re willing to put in some time, it may be this person is in the wrong field and is experiencing discomfort. Show compassion if you can, but be clear that this is affecting your business relationship.

Red – Something is very wrong

When you’re conducting the transaction with this person, shortly after (if not immediately), off go the alarm bells. Perhaps they showed they didn’t really listen or understand or care, or they make sizeable mistakes and don’t appear particularly receptive to feedback. They may in fact not be ethical. Someone may give all the appearance of being “gold” in the first meeting, but weeks pass with no return calls and no response to emails. Finally you extract their work, you then have to rework it completely and you wonder why they were involved in the first place.

BlackNothing worse

These are the elusive types who disappear into a black hole. They’ve promised the earth, but you never hear from them. They’re hard to find, don’t respond to communications of any sort, and worst of all, you made a sizeable down-payment for their services. What could be a reason for this inexplicable behaviour?

Take some time to identify what kind of follow-up person you are. What kind of follow-up does your team provide and where could some be moved to achieve gold?

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.

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