Many leaders confuse follow-up with micro-management, so they resist following up with employees on outstanding tasks, deadlines and commitments. While micro-management reflects a leader’s lack of trust in their employees, follow-up demonstrates a leader’s commitment to delivering what they have promised. Consistent delivery of commitments builds an influential reputation in the workplace. Your reputation shapes your relationships. How you are perceived drives the results that others deliver. If you have a reputation for being inconsistent or untimely with commitments, your employees will not prioritize your needs. If your timely delivery on a promise isn’t important to you, why would it be important to those who work for you? A strong reputation requires others’ trust and respect, which is based on how they experience your actions, communication and behaviors. The way they perceive you is tied directly to what they see and hear you do. If your employees hear you commit but see you fail to follow through, they will not trust what you say. Worse still, they may mirror your behavior by resisting the need to prioritize your requests. Your Reputation Precedes You A strong, positive reputation is the cornerstone of influence. If you wish for others to act upon what you have to say, you must first earn their trust. You can accomplish this by consistently following through on your commitments. If you continually deliver on your commitments, you earn trust. If you are inconsistent, people will be reluctant to trust you. Follow-up is a leader’s way of ensuring the consistent delivery of their word. When you follow up with employees, you demonstrate a desire to deliver on your commitments. Not only does this positively impact your reputation, but it boosts your team’s reputation, too. By consistently delivering on commitments, you create a reputation of trust. Other people will trust you, other organizations will be willing to work with you, and your employees will respect you. Feedback Is a Two-Way Street I often encourage clients I coach to seek feedback from peers, colleagues and mentors on how others perceive them in the workplace. Honest feedback allows you to seek opportunities for improvement. It helps to identify weaknesses and address ways to improve. Feedback doesn’t have to stop with you. When you follow up with employees, you provide a valuable opportunity to offer feedback as well. For instance, if an employee states that they are struggling to deliver a commitment on time, you can help them identify and organize their workload to align with your more significant priorities. The very act of following up gives you a chance to guide strategic thinking, time management and work performance. The conversation also opens the door for employees to provide direct feedback on expectation management and the risk of over-committing. Mistakes Happen Something competes for our attention every day. A last-minute meeting, an interruptive phone call or an unexpected request can steal our focus from real priorities. When this happens, a domino effect of failures can occur. We may forget to respond to an email or deliver on a deadline. These daily distractions challenge our ability to execute on commitments. If this happens, rest assured that your employees are dealing with this, too. In today’s world of fast-paced information and change, employees can get easily distracted. Follow-up ensures that everyone remains focused on their commitments. It also reduces the risk of missed deadlines, which cost us trust and influence with others. Follow-up also helps leaders navigate their team’s distractions and requests their time. Without follow-up, you may never know the extent of how outside demands affect employee performance and their ability to deliver on priorities. Follow-up provides your team the protective coverage needed to remain focused on what matters most. Follow-up does not demonstrate a perceived lack of trust for employees. Instead, it reveals your desire for others to trust you and your team. Following up offers an opportunity to continually evaluate priorities, provide cover from daily distractions and act on feedback to achieve team success. If you want to earn and maintain a positive, influential reputation in the workplace, provide your team the follow-up needed to remain focused and committed.
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- Stacey Hanke, Founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc., author of Influence Redefine … Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday