Why are people terrible at following-up with what they promised to do?

By Kathleen E. Murphy

I could have chosen a number of different words to express my sentiments about most people’s ability to follow-up on just about anything, but in my experience most people fail miserably at this skill, and yes, I will say the word….simply suck at it. Why is it that something which is so simple to do seemingly not done by the majority of people in the business community, and in many social interaction scenarios? Is it because they were not taught this skill, or lack manners or discipline? Is it because they forget what they promised to follow-up on, or did they not ever intend to follow-up and simply gave “lip service” and told the person what they think they wanted to hear?

When I come across someone who has strong follow-up skills, I am always impressed with this skill. The people who consistently do this well are not always in sales, customer service or marketing and which are business disciplines which require you to have excellent follow through skills. However, the common thread which people have who possess excellent follow-up skills are often highly self-disciplined, driven to succeed, value the reputation of their verbal commitments and have genuine respect for the person they were speaking to and the time they spent conversing with them.

Take a moment to think about how you felt when someone followed-up with you. Were you surprised or did you expect this to happen? Was the impact of their follow through seemingly a large effort, or did it potentially take less than a couple of moments to accomplish? Let’s think about follow-up from a different angle. When someone does not follow through with a commitment they made, does it change your opinion of them, or do you not think twice about it? Have you ever considered how you are perceived when you failed to follow through with one of your commitments?  Do you think there was an impact on your lack of follow-up via the person or group you assured you would deliver on providing them with whatever you promised?

When I was researching this topic, I thought about when do people learn the skill of following through? This is not a skill taught in academic settings, and unless you learn this from your family or friends, you might not be fully equipped to master this skill until you are put into scenarios which require you to master this skill. Yes, I will agree in most academic situations an early form of practicing this skill is to complete and turn in your homework, and there is an incentive to do so. However, let’s go beyond the academic setting and place ourselves into the “working world”. Since in my opinion being able to follow-up is a relatively easy skill to master and yet only requires more discipline, everyone should have the ability to master this skill. Perhaps a change in your attitude to care about the importance of this skill is partially required to gain success in this area? Regardless of the reason or your level of ability to follow-up,  here is a link to an article to help you. It is titled “7 Ways to Improve Your Results With Follow Up” .

Since we are at the beginning of the week, here’s a challenge I want you to consider trying for one week. See what happens after you commit to following through on everything you told someone you would do. You are going to need to keep track of this information, and if you do and look back on the results a few weeks from now, think about the impact doing so has had on you and the recipients. If after one week of practicing your follow-up skills, let’s see if you agree it is not as difficult or time consuming as you might imagine it to be. The added benefit of practicing your follow-up skills will be how people perceive you in a much more positive light, and your personal reputation will gain what I refer to as “karma points” which everyone can use more of. So, what is the first thing you are going to follow-up on?

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.






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