Recently, I was asked what can be done if you have an employee who can’t meet deadlines. To further complicate the situation, you don’t have the ability to discipline or reward the employee. But their inability to get his or her work done is hurting your career.
For years, I worked in one of the few professions where deadlines are real. In TV news, your story must air when it is scheduled. Otherwise, you’ll be in hot water (to steal an overused new writing cliche).
I see a similar situation in medicine. An organ transplant takes place under a very strict timeline.
Unless something is going to blow up or someone will die, your deadline is arbitrary. I’m not saying that it’s not important. But you need to acknowledge that your deadline is artificial, if you want to change your situation.
Here’s where deadlines are important: When they come from your superiors. Your ability to meet them will define your career. Your staff and colleagues may not share your enthusiasm for meeting them. A sick dog, last night’s playoff game, and poor time management are all things that can make them miss your deadlines. Unfortunately, you can’t control these challenges.
But what you can change is the way you set deadlines for your projects. But I don’t want you to push them back and give people more time. That rewards poor efforts and unorganized behavior.
To Clear the Path of this challenge, I want you to set their deadlines earlier. So if you need information, from your staff or colleagues, for a report that you have to turn in on Monday, don’t ask them to give it to you on the previous Friday. It’s a great way to ensure that you’ll get it on Friday at 4:55 p.m. Usually that means you’ll be spending your weekend working on the report.
Instead, you now need to set their deadline for Wednesday. “But I don’t need it that early,” you say. That’s absolutely true if you want to indulge people who can’t get their work done on time. Remember, your deadlines are arbitrary. Why not set them so that you don’t have to suffer the stress of someone’s last-minute-itus.
You can’t be at your most productive if you’re having to rush your work and compensate for the slowness of others. Why not give yourself a cushion that takes some of the pressure off you? You were hired to get things done, not babysit your colleagues.
Don’t make your life harder because people can’t meet their deadlines. They don’t have to know when your work is due. Make them get their work done earlier.