Thoughts on Leadership: New Year, Same Follow Up

This week my travels find me in Northern California, reviewing my goals and flipping through the pages of my journal. In late December, during that expected lull just after the jolly whirlwind of the holidays temporarily dims, right before the excitement of New Year’s Eve begins, I always grab my journal and go through each entry. As I review, I note what I’ve accomplished and what still needs to be completed before the clock strikes midnight on a brand-new year.

I’ve kept a journal for decades and it’s the ideal tool to reflect on your past and plan for the future. A 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review also espoused the importance of journaling. It reads:

“Extraordinary leadership is rooted in several capabilities: seeing before others see, understanding before others understand, and acting before others act. A leader’s unique perspective is an important source of creativity and competitive advantage. But the reality is that most of us live such fast-paced, frenzied lives that we fail to leave time to actually listen to ourselves.”

Beyond creative expression, my journal also serves a pragmatic purpose: It’s the place where I write down my daily to-do list. (For a brief explanation on the link between writing down goals and accomplishing them, I suggest this story by Forbes, which describes the results of a study on goal-setting: “Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t.”)

Let’s pause here and review: A journal helps recall your past wins, creatively interpret the present and strategize for success. One easy way to increase success is by making a follow-up list, the result of carefully analyzing each to-do list you’ve created throughout the year and from those, writing down the tasks—both big and small—that still require attention.

In business, and especially in sales—whether you’re selling a franchise agreement to a brokerage, homemade cookies to a local bakery or even yourself for a new listing—follow up is key.

But before I get into why you should follow up, let’s discuss the “how.” Follow up doesn’t necessarily mean hopping on a plane and knocking on someone’s office door—although in some situations that may be the most effective game plan. In many cases, follow up simply means staying in touch and keeping the lines of communication open to allow for healthy, collaborative discussion to take place. (If you want more on collaboration and negotiation, I suggest the video series our team put together, which you can find here and here.)

Follow up may mean sending a handwritten thank you note, checking in with a text, LinkedIn message or phone call or even sending a video message expressing your gratitude for your counterpart’s consideration of the prospective sale or deal. I’ve been known between filming videos at our in-office studio to shoot quick, 10-second messages on my iPhone to those I want to follow up with, and the results are always incredible. As VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk says, all good leaders must “develop and deploy empathy” because one of the very best sales strategies is simply showing the other person how much you truly care.

So, what’s the message? As 2019 approaches, consider journaling to become an even better leader. As you journal, record, reflect and follow up. Good business, the kind that is sustainable and long-lasting, is a matter of give and take, a process that’s about persistence, perseverance and practicality. On the most fundamental level, if you know your product, brand or service can improve the lives of those around you, then all you have to do is follow up and show your customers that behind it all, is an undeniable asset to enhance their businesses and lives. And that’s something we can all resolve to accomplish in 2019.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,


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