During a recent dinner conversation, I asked a close friend “What is your biggest complaint about work?” Without hesitation, he said “People who miss their deadlines.” Then he went into a 20-minute tirade about how one missed deadline by one person throws everything off.
He talked about how it is almost always up to him to make up for that person’s shortcomings. Finally, throwing his hands up in exasperation, he muttered “The work has to be done, even if that means that I log in over the weekend to finalize everything.”
The person making him crazy doesn’t report to him, and he is not one to go tattling to his boss, so he has learned to live with the problem. I wanted to be able to offer him some gem of information that would change his life.
However, when you get down to it, this is the kind of performance issue that managers must address, so until he is willing to start pointing fingers, he’ll have to live with it.
You can make sure your employees don’t suffer the same fate. Things happen and you can’t expect every employee to meet every deadline, but if missed deadlines are becoming a problem in your department, take these steps:
- Delegate effectively. That means dividing the work up evenly, assigning realistic deadlines and ensuring that people have the right skills and training to do the job. Dump too much work on someone or expect too- quick turnarounds, and you are begging for missed deadlines.
- Prioritize employees’ assignments. One of the biggest productivity killers is allowing interruptions and seemingly urgent tasks to disrupt your work. As you make assignments, rank them, letting employees know how important and/or urgent it is for them to complete each task. Setting specific deadlines for every task you hand out is critical so that employees can prioritize their own work.
- Battle procrastination. Some people thrive on completing tasks at the last-minute. In fact, they may produce their best work then. Others put off tasks they dread. Still others drastically underestimate the time requirements of a particular task. You can reverse procrastination habits by monitoring employees’ progress, especially on big or long-term projects. Also, when you make assignments, talk about how much time you think it will require so that employees have a clear picture of what each assignment entails. And finally, break down larger jobs into smaller tasks with specific deadlines. That encourages steady progress, rather than leaving everything to the last minute.
To help you manage this tricky situation, Kevin Eikenberry offers even more insight on managing missed deadlines in this video (and encourages you to ask three questions before you take any action.)