"You know what we like about you, kid...you write things down. You may not know anything, but at least you follow-up on what we tell you."
Even though it is only my first month on the job, a little piece of me dies. Apparently from the above quote, the mechanics that I am supervising think I don't know anything. Worse yet, they only like me because I follow-up on their "demands."
I am THEIR boss ... Shouldn't it be the other way around?
Fast forward 15 years...
I now realize that the backhanded compliment given to me by an ornery mechanic was the best advice I had ever gotten. The people you work with don't care how smart or how talented you are. They only care about you doing what they asked you to do or you doing what you said you were going to do. To keep it simple, they care if you Follow-Up.
Think of the people you work with who are the most successful. This doesn't mean the ones with the best title or the highest salary, but rather those who accomplish the most and, at the same time, earn the respect of the people around them. Watch how these people operate and you're sure to see that each and every one of them follows up.
How do you know if you are a person who follows up? Ask yourself the following set of questions. If you answer "No" to two or more, you have some work to do. Roles have been added to some of the questions to help you in determining where to focus your attention.
TIPS: If you believe you need some help after reading the preceding questions, fear not. Here is a list of simple tips to help you follow-up. These tips do not take any special talent or skill. They just require focus and a strong will.
1. Make a List
It doesn't matter how good your memory is, you can't remember everything. This is especially true in today's world, where companies are trying to save money by making people assume multiple jobs. Create an official "Follow-Up List" where requests will sit until they are addressed. Keep this list with you at all times because you never know when you will get a new request.
2. Give Yourself a Short Deadline
Setting a short-term target will force you to take action. You have a better chance of getting something done if you give yourself two days as opposed to two weeks.
3. Say "No"
If you take on too many requests, you have no shot of getting anything done in a timely manner (See Tip #2). You're probably thinking, "Doesn't saying 'Yes' all the time make me a team player?" No, it doesn't. It makes you the guy who doesn't follow-up on anything.
4. Focus on Your List
There are a lot of people who are constantly looking for new assignments, without making any attempt to complete the ones they already have. Some of those people do not have the self-discipline to focus on the task at hand. Others are simply trying to use multiple job assignments as a means to advance their career. Either way, focus on finishing the assignments you have now, before taking on new ones.
5. Don't Fear Failure
Many people dread following up on a job assignment they completed. After all, what if the requester didn't think their actions were up to par? Unfortunately, getting feedback is the only way to grow. You need to check your ego at the door and acknowledge that you are not perfect. After you complete a job, ask the requester for feedback on your execution. Use every bit of feedback as a means to continuously improve your work. Your colleagues will thank you for it.
To keep it simple, they care if you Follow-Up.
George Mahoney currently acts as the Reliability Excellence Lead for Merck in North and Latin America. In addition, he serves a mentor, sponsor and instructor for Merck Six Sigma. He is an expert at making lean methodologies and continuous improvement a part of everyday life for an organization. From the shop floor, to the executive board meeting, George will find a way to eliminate non-value added work so you can focus on what is important without distraction.
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