Why Didn’t You Get Better? You Didn’t Follow-up!

Clearly, affirmatively, I can tell you that you will not get better if you do not follow-up. Once you’ve mastered the subtleties of asking, listening, thanking, apologizing, involving, and initiating change in your behavior, you must follow-up relentlessly! If you don’t, all your hard work is just a flash in the pan, a “program of the month”, and another reason why people don’t trust that anything ever really changes.

I teach my clients to go back to all of their coworkers every month or two to ask them for comments and suggestions. For instance, one of my clients who had a problem sharing and including his peers in organizational happenings went to each colleague and said the following, “Last month I told you that I would try to get better at being more inclusive. You gave me some ideas and I would like to know if you think I have effectively put them into practice.” That question forced his colleagues to think, once again, about his efforts to change, to mentally gauge how he was progressing, and to keep focused on his continuous improvement.

If you do this every month, your colleagues eventually begin to accept that you are getting better, not because you say so, but because they see so and they are reminded that they are seeing you change every time you ask them to look at you! When I tell you, “I’m getting better,” I believe it. When I ask you, “Am I getting better?” and you say I am, then you believe it.

Follow-up is the last step of the Leadership Is a Contact Sport behavioral change process. You’ve walked through Ask, Listen, Think, Thank, Respond, Involve, Change – and now it’s time to follow-up. This is the longest part of the process of changing for the better. It can go on, and should go on, for 12 to 18 months. And, fittingly, with all this time spent on this last step, you will find that it is the difference maker in this whole process.

Follow-up is how you measure your progress.

Follow-up is how our efforts eventually get imprinted on our colleagues’ minds.

Follow-up is how we erase our coworkers’ skepticism that we can change.

Follow-up is how we acknowledge to ourselves and others that getting better is an ongoing process, not a temporary conversion.

More than anything, follow-up makes us change. It gives us the momentum, even the courage, to go beyond understanding what we need to do to change and actually doing what we need to do to change, because in engaging in the follow-up process, we are changing!

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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