Follow-Up

Years ago I was a Product Manager of a product with lots of teething troubles. The Director of Support and I sat down from time to time to discuss the most urgent customer issues. One day he suddenly said, visibly annoyed, "I see that you're agreeing with me and writing down things in your notebook, but are you actually going to do something with it this time?" .

Needless to say, that hit home.

I've seen many LinkedIn posts that go like "here are ten things that take 0 talent: following up on commitments, being on time, ... " etc. . But I think that's wrong. Making sure you "follow up" is hard work. I'm a total pleaser by nature, I want to be agreeable and I dread confrontation. Telling someone "I'm not going to do anything with this" is very difficult. So my natural tendency is to say "Hm yes that's a good point, it would be great if we did something with it, perhaps we can do ..." and then go off and brainstorm something nice in a fantasy world. People go along with this most of the time, because it is very nice to go off into fantasy mode. It's just that at some point they have to admit reality. In this instance it took a couple of meetings to see that nothing was happening.

In the years afterwards, running a regulated quality management system and managing a team, I've had to unlearn my pleasing nature and get down to earth. I never want anyone to tell me again that I'm not keeping my commitments. I've noticed that I'm promising less, I say "no" more, and I have a simple checklist system to track all the things that I actually committed to. I smile a bit when I see other people go into fantasy mode and typically steer the conversation back to reality.

So thanks for the feedback Nilco, I'm definitely not perfect at following up, but a lot better than before.

(this is a cross-post from LinkedIn)

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