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Telephone Follow Up

Module by: Cody Zahler. E-mail the author

Summary: Through this challenge students will come to understand the pertinent role that follow-up plays in the business world.

Challenge: Telephone

Unit: Follow-up

Subject: Leadership

Description: Through this challenge students will come to understand the pertinent role that follow-up plays in the business world.

Phase I: Game

In a large group of 10 or more have the students play the game of telephone.

How it works is one student, whom we will be called the manager for the sake of the game, starts the group off with a single phrase that he or she has made up by whispering that phrase to the person seated to his or her left. Before beginning this game have the “manager” establish a goal for the end phrase to have, for example, 5 of the same words it started with. Each student will repeat the phrase the person next to them. The objective of this round is to see how accurate the phrase is at the end of the circle and to see how close the manager came to reaching his or her goal.

Discussion for Phase I:

Take a moment now to discuss how and why the phrase changed so dramatically as it moved through the circle and figure out how follow up can change the outcome of the game so as to better reach the goal of the manager.

Phase II: Follow-up

Allow the students to figure out ways to incorporate follow-up into the game so that they may be able to have a more accurate outcome and achieve the goal as it was set out by the manager.

A possible solution would be to allow the manager to stop every three students and to correct the integrity of the phrase and then allow it to continue around the circle. The ending outcome should be much closer to the initial objective of the manager.

Discussion for Phase II:

Wrap-up this challenge with evaluate the two different outcomes of the two different phases and discuss why the phrase telephone game in the second phase was so much more accurate when compared to the first phase. Finally discuss how important follow-up is when trying to achieve a goal as seen in the game and how this could be applied to real life situations.

Time Limit: This challenge should take no more than 40 minutes to complete


Core Competencies

  • Decision Making: how to make quick, wise decisions                                
  • Organizing a Group: organization and communication skills
  • Establishing Goals: long-term, short-term, doable
  • Goal Tracking and Follow-up
  • Critical Thinking: deductive reasoning in evaluation of variables
  • Research driven discovery: research and administration of effective methods of discovery
  • Process Management: planning and tracking a project from start to finish
  • Continual Improvement: recognizing problems and working to fix them
  • Creative Problem Solving: thinking "outside the box" to address problems or meet goals
  • Facilitate & engage effective discussion:
  • Maintain control: without micromanagement etc
  • Identify shared goals
  • Articulate desired outcome


Follow-up: Here are some tips for good follow-up:

  • Make sure you know the level of follow-up required. One factor is the person you are delegating the task to and his/her level of knowledge and confidence concerning the task. Ask! Some people may want much follow-up, while other may require little follow-up. It also depends on how difficult the task is to complete.               
  • Make sure you have scheduled follow-ups. Before you leave the first meeting, make sure you schedule your first follow-up; whether it is one day or week, schedule that first follow-up.        
  • Reward progress at each follow-up meeting and in public if possible. Show appreciation in the meeting and, if possible, in public so that everyone is motivated to do more.              
  • Correct to get back on track. In most cases it may be as simple as showing the correct way of doing the task or brainstorming so that the person responsible for the task will come up with the solution. This will keep the person and your team motivated toward the end result. 

Goal setting

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Attainable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Timely


     Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.

     Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.

WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build etc.

WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?

HOW are you going to do it? (By...)

     Ensure the goals you set is very specific, clear and easy. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2cm off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at an aerobically challenging pace.


     If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, the is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.

     Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you see when you reach your goal? Be specific! "I want to read 3 chapter books of 100 pages on my own before my birthday" shows the specific target to be measure. "I want to be a good reader" is not as measurable.

     Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.


     When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop that attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Your begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

     Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won't commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it's too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.

     A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20lbs in one week, we all know that isn't achievable. But setting a goal to loose 1lb and when you've achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1lb, will keep it achievable for you.

     The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated.


     This is not a synonym for "easy." Realistic, in this case, means "do-able." It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn't break them.

     Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.

     For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of sweet products gradually as and when this feels realistic for you.

     Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren't very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!


     Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by fifth grade. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.

     If you don't set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there's no urgency to start taking action now.

     Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.

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