My dad officially retires this Friday on February 1. He always has been and remains one of my heroes, in part because Friday actually marks the end of a fourth successful career after overcoming some major obstacles growing up and into adulthood. After being the first in his family to graduate from college and receive a Masters, he spent 20 years teaching middle- and high-school art and photography. He also coached high-school and college baseball. He also was General Manager for two minor-league baseball franchises. And he just finished 20 years as a financial advisor. Success and accolades at every stop. My LinkedIn profile might be a bit longer and have more stops doing different roles, but primarily in only one industry of media and advertising. How dull in comparison.…
I grew up getting some good wisdom from him that I am reminded of to this day on a weekly basis. One line he always quoted was from the great essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Those of you who have met me or my dad know we tend to skew a bit to the right on the enthusiasm curve, especially when we believe in the product and people we represent and work with.
One other message he pounded into me that I have remembered often has been one I attribute to him though I’m sure many others have said it in different ways over the years:
“Actually do what you say you are going to do.”
I first spoke about this to our Sales Account Management team at AOL years ago about being the industry’s best in real client service. And it relates to just about every person at every level working at every company.
It is all about the follow-up.
How many times, just this week, have you been in a meeting where your boss, your sales rep, your client, your subordinate, or your whatever says something will get done, or next steps are agreed and you know they are not all going to happen. I know many people that I describe as “giving good meeting” and then are never heard from them again, or heard from so late with such incomplete follow-up that the relationship is now out of rhythm and confidence in that person to deliver takes a hit.
A recent consulting client of mine had a streak last year of having more than 20 meetings in row run long by more than 5 minutes–everything from a 15-minute phone chat to a 60-minute internal status meeting to a 30-minute external customer pitch. Take a guess at how much the client’s product launch was on time, or how long the company’s burn rate lasted compared to plan. Do you see this pattern at your company, or with your customers, or with your vendors?
It is amazing how quickly you can rise above the noise and so many other players in your space simply by doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. And if you can’t, for some reason outside your control, at least notify the person it’s not going to get done…before the deadline so they have the proper time to plan for the delay.
Whatever your system needs to be: Salesforce.com, To Do list, Evernote, Calendar entries, Excel, legal pad and pen…get on it and get in rhythm with your colleagues to own your time and relationships. Over time, you will see the returns and earn the respect that comes with being a true professional and partner/manager/employee/consultant.
So happy “retirement,” Dad. You’ve earned it. Now go do what you say you’re going to do…and enjoy it.
Matt Prohaska is the Principal at Prohaska Consulting, a company that helps leading digital media and advertising technology firms with their digital sales, marketing, business development, and operational strategies.