Follow-up Is the Power in Leadership

I know, the title is clumsy…but it got your attention. That’s the problem: following up, the power in leadership, is a plain, quiet skill languishing in the shadow of strategy and starting.

Strategy is sexy and fun. It’s the subject of endless articles, videos, and debate. It’s what CEOs are supposed to do, according to folks who’ve never been a CEO. Strategy is vital when it’s time, but most of the time (years, actually) it’s not on the table, and looking at it sooner qualifies as pulling up the plant to see how its growing.

Starting is seductive. It promises a result, soon. It’s satisfying, allowing folks to let up, “since we’re on our way.” Look around this week, and you’ll find a sea of starting that overwhelms the few finishes. Yes, there’s lots written about the importance of starting, because without it nothing gets done.

SPEED BUMP: Starting is overrated; finishing gets the gold.

If finishing is so important, why is it elusive?

It’s the hardest work. It requires the creativity to find solutions that aren’t visible at the beginning.

It stretches beyond comfort and adrenalin.

After the thrill of the start, the grind of working through demands discipline and fearlessness. Both include some pain.

It requires seeing limits. I’ll do almost anything to avoid looking squarely at my limits, though I know it’s not best. To see a limit is to see a new challenge, likely tougher than the start. If may require getting help, involving another person’s skills and limits.

SPEED BUMP: Finishing requires facing new problems.

So, what are the secrets of following up? Here’s your starter list:

  1. Post a follow-up date as part of delegating. I use Evernote because it’s a simple system for me. Build a system to follow up; your memory will fail you otherwise.
  2. Ask the question: How are you doing with X? As with every question worth asking, the key is to listen and wait. The goal is to get your person talking, not to get you talking.
  3. Ask the next question: And what else? This is where you start to get some insight. Look especially for the more powerful one or two blocks to progress. Don’t be surprised if they are either fear or confusion about the exact project.
  4. Ask the next question: What are you going to do now? Wait to give your advice. Listen closely here. Minor polishing may validate your person’s approach and build their confidence at the same time. You may also discover that your person really doesn’t have the competence to complete the task.

SPEED BUMP: Slow progress means fuzzy problem definition or lack of competence.

Lack of competence for the task can show up as confusion about what to do next or fuzziness about what’s in the way. When you sense inadequate competence, clarify the next step and provide help to define and do it if needed. If those fail, then cut out a small portion of the assignment for your person to finish and move the main project to someone more likely to succeed.

ACCELERANT: What will you follow up on this week?

For more information on how you can accelerate revenues and profits in your business, please call or email me.

A note on SPEED BUMPS: Use them to click quickly with an idea that can immediately be implemented in your life as a business leader. Think: “How can I use this today?“or “Who can use this?”


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