The Power of Active Follow Up

triggersTo make change happen effectively (for our companies and for ourselves) requires daily attention and regular follow up.

People don’t get better without follow up.  So let’s get better at following up with our people.

 The quote above is from Marshall Goldsmith in his excellent book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be.

In the book, which I encourage you to read, Goldsmith offers insight into how we can be more effective and consistent in changing behaviors.

Goldsmith’s concepts of Active Follow up and Daily Questions are the key ideas in creating behavior change that lasts.


Active Follow Up

As leaders, we need to be following up with our team consistently to ensure that goals are on track.  This is a fundamental of leadership.  As my colleague Martin Zwilling writes:

You should never aspire to be a manager or an executive if you don’t do follow-up.  You won’t be happy, and you won’t do a good job, because that’s what leaders do most of the time.

In following up with our employees, however, many of us ask passive questions:

  • Do you have clear goals?

  • Are  you on track with your goals?

  • Are you working well with the team?

While better than nothing (at least we are asking follow up questions), these questions ask about the employee’s state of mind or opinion.  As such, it becomes too easy for the employee to make an excuse or blame someone else.

Instead, Goldsmith suggests that we ask active follow up questions that require the employee to describe or defend a course of action.

  • Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?

  • Did you do your best to stay on track with your goals?

  • Did you do your best to build positive relationships with the team?

By putting the questions in the format of “Did you do your best..”, the employee cannot blame someone else.  It is on him or her.  As such, we heighten the employee’s accountability and sense of ownership.


Daily Questions

Goldsmith proposes that we use similar active questions on a daily basis to ensure that we stay on track with our own goals.  A quick review of “Did you do your best…” questions at the end of every day can help each of us change behaviors and become the person that we want to be.

  • Did I do my best to set clear objectives today?

  • Did I do my best to make progress towards these objectives today?

  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

  • Did I do my best to be happy and fully engaged in the moment today?

  • Did I do my best to….. today?


Active follow up and daily questions help us remember some fundamentals about change:

  • Change does not happen overnight

  • Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out

  • If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t make the effort, we won’t get better


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Improve / Turnaround, Leadership, Team / People and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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