“To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.” – Friedrich Nietzsche (Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1883-92)

Let’s start with this: It’s not enough to have a goal and articulate it; you must turn that goal into specific objectives that are communicated clearly and have attached to them (a) standards of quality and (b) deadlines.

That I knew. I also knew that to get these expectations met, you need to follow up.

What I didn’t know (or knew theoretically but hadn’t ever incorporated into practice) was that follow-up has to be much more than a series of reminders.

“Instead of giving your people two dozen great ideas and then pestering them with “Where’s this at?” memos, focus on the single most important idea and follow up in a more serious way.” That’s what BS suggested last night.

Although I don’t know if I’ll be able to curtail the number of suggestions that seem to leap spontaneously from my throat each time I review a business, I intend to take one suggestion as No. 1 and give it the kind of follow-up BS was talking about.

Serious follow-up consists of more than reminders. It’s the willingness to set aside time to make sure the objective is clearly understood, to discuss and review the plan for accomplishing it, and to help brainstorm solutions.

When I think back over this past year, it’s clear to me that most of the big jobs that were accomplished by my businesses were done after I dug in and got seriously involved. There were a few that got done just by my asking — but I consider those to be blessings to be grateful for.

For the most part, it takes a significant amount of personal involvement to get big ideas put into action.

Starting on Monday, you’ll be reviewing your 2001 accomplishments and planning for next year. This is a good time to think about making this kind of follow-up protocol a regular habit.

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