The first lesson I learned in my first out-of-college job was, “under-promise, over-deliver, and follow up.” Don’t agree to a deadline you can’t meet, and don’t underestimate the time a task takes. Do what you say, and that means more than bare bones effort.
While my first out-of-college job was decades ago, follow-up is still key to any client relationship. Social relationships may be lost already. People are being ghosted, benched, worked as booty calls. Texts never develop into a relationship. You get calls for last-minute events, but it doesn’t feel spontaneous, it feels “she always says yes.” Potential soul mate quits calling, texting, or being available. Dating is not for the weak.
But that behavior can’t start to leak into business. Not because it costs time and money, but because it is rude. And it also costs time and money. And rude creates a slowly spreading circle of anger and fear, about as lovely as a gut shot on a police procedural. Who wants to walk through that mess every day?
Here is how follow-up works. (If you think I’m a bit stabby because I’ve drawn the fuzzy end of the lollipop in the follow-up game more than necessary last week, you would be right.)
If you promise a call, a notification, a service, put it on your to-do list and on the to-do list of everyone else whose work bounces against this project. And then check on the person who lives at the desk ahead of yours, and the one before that. More than once. If you notice a time slippage, involve them in how to save the time lost.
Shrugging and saying, “there is nothing I can do till next week” is not what any client will hear happily. The people who work with you day to day–don’t wear them out with failure to follow up. Do your part, even if it means delivering bad news. Bad news is a problem that can be solved, but no followup leaves the project, the client, and the client’s client floating without a tether.
Be efficient. Follow-up saves you time, too.
—Quinn McDonald knows that yelling and threatening is not professional behavior. But if she doesn’t see some follow-up happening out there, yelling and threatening will commence. She is a writer who teaches writing, and a creativity coach.