No Follow-up On the Follow-up?

As a coach and workshop facilitator, I frequently get calls that sound something like this:

“I’m looking for someone who can give a workshop to my staff on the topic of _________. My plan is for us to do an introductory session in a few weeks and then follow up soon after with the next phase of the professional development. Can you help us?”

If the date and other details work out, we move forward with scheduling the session. At the end, I debrief with the coordinator, to ask for feedback and to plan the next steps. That conversation often goes as follows:

“The workshop was exactly what we needed! Thank you so much. Please give us a little time and I or one of my associates will be back in touch to schedule the first follow-up session.”  However, on more than one occasion, that was the last that I heard from them.

I do not believe that the coordinator was being disingenuous when she initially requested a sustained arrangement. Nor do I think that in most cases the opening workshop failed to deliver the desired outcome. Rather, I sense that for most such individuals, the issue is one of focus and determination to see their plan through to completion despite new obstacles that emerge.

The year begins with so many hopes, dreams and aspirations. You plan to bring your staff along a new pathway of growth and engagement with continued reinforcement and follow-up. But then the daily rigors of the job got in the way. Your to-do list grows with so many untended tasks to complete, including many that you did not or could not anticipate. The first things to go are the growth-oriented projects that require more sustained focus and oversight than you can muster.

Other challenges may also be at play, such as fiduciary considerations (you didn’t get the funding that you were expecting or some other budgetary line item was hopelessly under-budgeted). Again, it is the “extras” such as staff development that are the first to go. While you would love to have your staff be cutting edge in their professional practice, you also need to balance the budget and stay in the black.

What can executives, HR personnel and others do to avoid falling into the “coulda-shoulda-woulda” trap to ensure that their constituents get the supportive learning that they need to function at optimal capacity? The following suggestions can help.

  1. Prioritize the learning – Ask yourself, “How important is this training to you? What will happen if the staff does not receive it? Is it perfunctory or genuinely necessary?” The more that you can create a “case” for doing this training, the likelier you will keep it on the front burner and be willing to fund the project even as other priorities emerge.
  2. Set clear goals with timetables – One way by which we can get closer towards actualizing your aspirations is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for specific, measurable, attainable/realistic and time-related.
  • Specific – well defined, you know exactly what you seek to achieve;
  • Measureable – quantifiable in a way that helps determine whether the goal has been achieved;
  • Attainable/Realistic – a goal that is within reach, largely because of your deep desire to attain it;
  • Time-related – set to a timeframe to ensure continued, focused efforts towards attainment.

Establish learning and training goals that you genuinely think are achievable and then hold yourself accountable to them as much as possible.

  1. Be prepared to delegate – Not every job should remain on your personal to-do list. If you see that you are simply too overwhelmed by your day-to-day responsibilities, find someone else to make this happen. If you do choose to delegate, I suggest that you follow these steps to ensure a successful outcome.
  • Grant the necessary authority – Supply the control and leeway for your coworker to find the best approach on his own. This increases his creativity and initiative while boosting his self-esteem.
  • Be prepared to assist – You may need to delegate the task as a whole, but can often still assist here or there. Also, make sure to offer proper training to build skill and efficacy for the task designees.
  • Monitor progress – Stay on top of things and correct/redirect when necessary. This motivates colleagues (who don’t feel abandoned) and helps you catch problems early. Obviously, inexperienced colleagues will need tighter control than seasoned veterans.

There is no question that those leaders who reach out to trainers to deliver sustained training to their teams have every intention of actualizing their visions. The above strategies should help them fulfill their lofty objectives and not succumb to the challenges that threaten to derail them.