How to become a priority for someone? The follow up!

Posted by Steli Efti on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

Whether you are a CEO, an intern, or a solo-founder, you have to rely on others to do their part so you can do your job. Your success depends on how well others cooperate with you. If you manage those relationships well, you'll be able to get a great deal done and make a lot happen.

Difficulty getting others to do things?

Do you often find that people commit but then give you all kinds of excuses for why they didn’t do it?

Do you often hear: “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot about that,” or “I didn’t have the time to do that yet”?

I almost never hear these words. And it’s not because my LinkedIn profile has “CEO” in its title. It’s because I manage people with the power of the follow-up.

Straightforward management

There are a ton of management books out there, full of big words and fancy concepts. I don’t think you need any of them. I’ve got a very simple, straightforward method I’ve used for much of my entrepreneurial career, and it’s one of the most valuable tools in my management repertoire. It ensures that whenever I work with someone, my stuff gets taken care of. It doesn’t fall through the cracks, and it’s not the thing that people didn’t get around to yet. To illustrate the point...

Let me tell you a little story

About fifteen years ago, my two brothers were running a small business. They always used this one print shop to create all kinds of promotional materials: flyers, posters, signage, and so on. The owner of that shop was a cool and ambitious young guy—a kind of crazy creative fun guy, but pretty chaotic.

Working with someone who’s always late, never right

My brothers really liked the guy. He knew his stuff; he had the skills; and he was a great craftsman. And he did the work for cheap too.

But they didn’t like his way of working: chronically late, often with some mistake in his work. Flyers would arrive late. Posters were printed with errors. He was so disorganized that my brothers were constantly dealing with some mishap, feeling frustrated. But they didn’t do anything about it—they just kept complaining.

Don’t complain about problems. Find solutions!

One day, after my brother got off a call with the guy, he vented his frustration to me:

“He’s always late! He never keeps his deadlines! And not only is he late, but there’s always something wrong with the prints!”

Maybe you have that kind of person in your life somewhere: someone who is consistently late and consistently delivers work that doesn’t meet your expectations.

If you see this pattern, you can do one of these three things:

  1. Understand that this is how this person works. Don’t expect perfect work on the agreed deadline and don’t get worked up and stressed out each time they miss something. Instead, schedule in enough buffer time for missed deadlines and revisions.
  2. Manage that person better so they stop being late and deliver great quality.
  3. Find someone else to work with.

I’m not going to elaborate on point 1 or 3—they’re pretty self-explanatory.

But let’s talk about point 2…

Managing people more effectively

That sounds difficult. But it really isn’t.

Here’s the thing: I was running my own business at the time and was also working with the same chaotic, creative print guy.

And you know what?

He was never late. He always delivered on time. The prints were always meticulous.

Do you know why?

Not because the guy liked me more. Not because I paid the guy more. Not because I was a better customer.

It was simply because I kept following up with that guy more. I communicated more effectively with him than my brothers did.

How to become a priority

Let’s say I wanted some flyers done by Wednesday next week.

I’d tell the guy what I wanted and by when I wanted it, and once he agreed, I’d say this: “Are you one hundred percent certain that you can deliver this to me by next Wednesday?”

Print guy: “Yeah, sure!”

“Okay, so this is really important to me. I’m going to check in with you on Monday. You’ll get my call on Monday, and if I don’t manage to speak with you on the phone, I’ll send you a text message or an email to make sure that you’re on time and everything is running smoothly. And I’ll do the same on Tuesday to make sure that the quality is correct and that everything is one hundred percent as we agreed on. If you ever have any questions, I want you to ask me those questions immediately. I’m there for you when you need me for anything, but I need to be a hundred percent sure that you deliver this to me on Wednesday.”

What did that do?

The guy expected that I’d follow up with him. He expected my calls. He knew I’d be on top of this thing, and he knew I really cared that the job would be ready by Wednesday.

So when he was in the midst of his busy day with a thousand things to take care of, guess what was on top of his mind?

“Oh yeah, I need to do this thing for Steli because he’ll call on Monday.”

Don’t be an asshole about it. But don’t be weak about it either. Do it with friendly strength.

This is even more important when you work with people on a continuous basis. If you do it consistently, they will come to expect it from you and treat you accordingly. When they commit to something, they’ll know you will hold them accountable to their promises. It conditions people to make you a priority.

It’s your responsibility to get the best out of people you work with

If someone lets you down or doesn’t deliver as promised, either cut them off or take responsibility for managing them better next time. Everybody has a lot on their plate, and everyone's attention is pulled in a dozen directions at the same time. If you want to not get lost in the noise but to stand out and become a priority, be sure to over-communicate. Follow up more persistently than everybody else, and you’ll achieve things other people can’t achieve.

That’s how you crush it. That’s how you manage other people powerfully and become a priority: just keep following up persistently.

Topics: follow up

    
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