Whatever Happened to Executives “Following Up” with Direct Reports? (…and vice versa, for that matter)

18 Aug


Not too many years ago it seemed like most supervisors and managers, as a matter of routine, regularly followed up with their direct reports on a one-on-one or one-on-group basis. As a common practice, weekly meetings were scheduled where the boss inquired about what was going on in their direct reports’ worlds – be it generally or on a task-specific basis. But lately, I’ve been noticing that in many organizations following up with reports or “checking in” is no longer the matter of routine that it was at one time. Nor, does it seem that it is even an expectation, let alone the rule, for that matter. Now, maybe this is a result of the increasing popularity of texting, instant messaging, or e-mailing. Or, it could be the evolving unspoken manners and business rules that are changing – like a new implied trust in employees to keep their bosses abreast regarding what is going on. Well, that’s what my clients are finding – especially at senior levels.

While you still can’t beat the regularly occurring “one-on-ones”, they seem to be erratic and never long enough. So, my clients have found it valuable to communicate from afar – like e-mail. However it’s done, besides passing along top deliverables for the upcoming week, my clients and I have found that it’s extremely valuable to note key interactions they have had throughout the previous week. The reports can be brief and informal or tedious and formal. It all depends on the most acceptable style preferred by those who are involved. Typically, these reports are no more than a page. Once made aware of the obviousness of the need to keep abreast regularly, I have found that most bosses at the executive level prefer brief weekly updates, in addition to the typical monthly reports. Interestingly, executives rarely say anything. However, quit sending the weekly report and the senior manager typically gets a note from the boss asking where the weekly update is!

It just so happens that my clients are very creative. For instance, some have developed their own one-page briefing report that summarizes their past week while providing a sneak preview of top deliverables for the coming week. Some have a color coding system to note progress made on the deliverables and they use the same color coding to rate the qualities of the interactions. A few have also incorporated an “ideas” and/or “potential barriers” section.

As I tell my clients, try this approach for 60 to 90 days and then be sure to ask the boss if he/she finds the weekly update to be of help and a good use of their time. During the discussion, you will pick up very valuable insights that will help you in your efforts to stay aligned, which is of utmost importance. Guaranteed! As a final tip, you should be aware that what bosses really like about these brief updates is that it helps to make sure that they are not caught by surprise! That, by the way, is an old rule that hasn’t changed – and most likely never will.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).


3 Responses to “Whatever Happened to Executives “Following Up” with Direct Reports? (…and vice versa, for that matter)”

  1. Jamie August 19, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    Great suggestions! I’ve encountered some challenges with clients keeping one-on-ones consistent so I will keep your ideas in mind. Love the title of your new book! Will definitely check it out. Best of luck with it.

    • drdebbright August 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks for your enthusiastic response. So good to hear from you. Glad you like the title of my new book, The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt. Would enjoy receiving your critique. Thank you again, Deb

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