Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
Imagine a world where every voice mail you leave is promptly returned, where anything you ask of others is done when you want it done, and where every process you initiate gets completed without a single hitch. This world is called “Fantasyland,” and it does not exist; however, many people act as if it does. To assure things get done, and get done right, you need to stay on top of them.
While working in technical support for our web hosting company, I received a phone call from an upset customer saying that he ordered a website from us three weeks prior, and despite our policy of usually setting up new accounts within one hour, his was still not setup. He continued by telling me how urgent this site was, and this delay had cost his company a significant amount of money. I felt like asking “Why are you just contacting us now if this was so important?” However, I knew enough to solve his problem and not pass the blame. It turned out that the customer had entered an invalid e-mail address and did not get his new account information. Had he contacted us three weeks earlier, the problem could have been fixed then.
We are all guilty of letting things fall through the cracks, but why? There is a certain relief associated with “putting the ball in someone else’s court” or at least getting it out of your own court, especially when our “to do” list is filled with things to do. We tend to let things fall through the cracks when we are more concerned with checking tasks off our list than we are with making sure the tasks actually get done. It is not wise to depend on undependable people or people whom we do not know, nor should we blame anyone but ourselves for not following through with our tasks. The key to making sure things get done and done on time is by keeping the ball in your court. Here are some suggestions on how you can do just that.
- Don’t cross it off. Do not cross items off of your “to do” list until the REAL task itself is complete. For example, if you have “call the doctor” on your list, what you really mean is something such as “make an appointment with the doctor.” Don’t cross this off your list until your appointment is made and confirmed, not just when you leave a message.
- Specify a date and time. If you depend on vendors, staff, or friends for something, find out specifically when you can expect action. Then, let them know you will be following up at a given date and time. For example, if you have a shipment that your vendor promises will be shipped out “this week,” ask them for a specific date, then call the vendor back at least once prior to that date to make sure everything is on schedule.
- Follow up on e-mails. Today, many people use their e-mail client’s inbox as their “to do” list. When they respond to a message or initiate an e-mail, their e-mail disappears into the sent folder and is forgotten. A great strategy is to move a copy of the message into a folder called “follow up” and review these e-mails daily.
- Be persistent with phone calls. Do not let your progress be slowed by busy signals and voice mail. Be persistent and keep calling until you speak with someone. Use your best judgment here and make sure you do not keep ringing a telephone line that only has voice mail.
- Ask for confirmation. When you depend on another for something, ask that person for confirmation that what you have asked them to do has been done. This is not only assurance on your part, but it lets the other person know that this is important to you, and the task is less likely to be delayed or ignored.
Take responsibility for your tasks by following through. The object of the game is to keep the ball in your court. If something goes wrong, as it often does, you need to be there to take action to set things right. If tasks on your list do not get done because of lack of cooperation from others, you need to take action to get those tasks done some other way. Follow through on all you do, especially on your commitment to success.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)