Deadlines are simple and they’re fairly black and white; you either meet them or you don’t. They’re a great tool at assessing business goals and tracking accomplishments. But, here’s the kicker: deadlines also have the capability of being damaging, both professionally and personally, especially if missing them becomes a regular occurrence.
So how does one circumvent the stress, anxiety and potentially negative clap back of missed deadlines? By being strategic, of course.
Clarity: The objective needs to be clear
Never assume people understand what you need and why you need it. Ever find yourself in a position where you were prompted with a task but received no background information to fill in any gaps? Ex: “I need sales numbers from Q1 by Friday.” vs “We’d like to ensure we’re hitting our Q2 goals and keeping our conversion rates high to help the sales team hit their quota. Please provide Q1 sales numbers to me by Friday.”
It somehow seems easier to “pass” on a request if you have no idea why the request is being made. Why Friday? What relevance does that date have compared to the following Tuesday? By connecting requests to business objectives, you’re providing context to your team so they can see how one part makes a whole.
Communicate: Properly communicate your deadlines to your team, but avoid too many
Long gone should be the days of all-nighters in order to finish a midterm paper. Deadlines should be clearly communicated to your team so that each individual involved is equipped with the tools to hit them. Some team members thrive off of real deadlines vs artificial ones. Me, personally? I prefer building in deadline buffers just in case I read something that inspires my content to read more clearly and concisely, or if a conversation with a stakeholder prompts me to pivot in a different direction. With clear expectations of when projects should be completed (real deadlines), I feel better equipped and more confident to prioritize my tasks throughout the day in a way that helps push the needle forward for the entire company as a whole.
That being said, too many deadlines can create unrealistic expectations and stress for your team. Being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of deadlines can overwhelm key individuals, causing their time to then be spent putting out fires instead of putting forth optimal work.
Professionalism: Lead by example
The trickle-down effect of both good and bad leadership behavior is real. A professional attitude in all aspects of your business will not only keep your business bank account in the black but will also keep your emotional bank account (EBA) with your clients full as well. If you demonstrate qualities indicative of good leadership (dependable, respectful, on time), your team will strive to replicate those qualities. And a team made up of healthy, professional attributes directly translates to client trust and positive reputability.
However, the other side of the coin lends itself to the conversation that if you lead with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude you are almost guaranteed to produce a team with recurring time management issues and procrastination problems, such as missed deadlines. Simply stated, you cannot...I repeat…YOU CANNOT expect deadlines to be met if you do not have the discipline and integrity to meet them yourself.
Deadlines are fully capable of increasing employee morale by providing clear expectations for each member of the team as well as the team as a whole. They cannot be fully utilized, though, without a strategy that involves intention, awareness, and good leadership.
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