As a Project Manager, my responsibility is to ensure that the people I work with are contributing the required information by a specified date.
One of the struggles I’ve found moving into a management role is the expectation that I need to make people take action.
I know there are people who relish the opportunity “to be the boss” because they get to “tell people what to do”.
I’m not one of them, my management philosophy has always been more passive – based on understanding and compromise. However when you take that laid back approach, some colleagues take advantage of this and treat you like a pushover.
When you’re not comfortable asserting yourself, it can become uncomfortable and stressful as you think of how you intend to confront the co-worker for not performing their duties.
Approaching the conversation can be awkward as you struggle knowing what to say, and you might even accept excuses for this failure.
In today’s post I discuss how to get your colleagues to meet any deadline you set.
Interested? Let me explain…
To get your work colleagues to respect your deadline, you must:
- Be better prepared managing your priorities, so you can ensure you have the time to keep everyone around you accountable for their agreed responsibilities.
- Not be afraid to follow-up on an action.
- Add time pressure to encourage action.
- Understand that everyone has a different working style, and appreciate what adaption you need to make so they get the job done.
Manage your own priorities more effectively
When you are better prepared with your time, you can understand what needs to be done, by when, and exercise the controls so you can keep others around you accountable.
When you plan your time more effectively, you reduce the anxiety you feel when you assert yourself because you:
- Reduce the discomfort you feel from not allowing enough time to complete a job.
- Show consideration for other people’s priorities.
- Ensure your are speaking to the right people, are ae to get them in a room together to complete the task, and not have to be an awkward go-between.
- Give yourself space to schedule a stress-free follow-up call to action, knowing you have planned adequate time to reach your own deadlines.
- React more efficiently to any other last minute priorities assigned to you.
When you are able to think ahead with your commitments, you reduce the probability of being stressed by a coworker not reacting as ordered to your request.
Do not be afraid to follow-up an action
When you ask something of others, it can be intimidating when you have to follow-up to see if it has been done – this is made worse when you are conscious how busy and important that person is.
Often this anxiety of being annoying is all in your head – you’ll often find when you chase an action that has an impeding deadline how often people appreciate the reminder.
This is especially true if they are a busy and important person, because they get so many requests that’s it’s expected to give them a nudge.
If you are worrying you are being a pest, try to do the following:
Practice compassionate thoughts
Many doubting thoughts are the product of your mindset. Instead of telling yourself that you’re being a burden say
“I am not being annoying, I am just doing my job. They will recognise this, nor will they take it personally and will appreciate the reminder that they still have a job to do.”
Ask: what triggers this fear?
It was only through a period of self-reflection with a career coach I realised my fear of pushing someone to complete an action stemmed from my first ever job.
There was a team who was responsible for ordering all the office stationery, so whenever my team wanted to order more pencil sharpeners or whatever, I’d go to this big blue office fire door that was shut tight and give a limp knock .
I’d get an apathetic “Enter…” and as uncomfortable 18-year old me fumbled my request, as I felt those cold, judgemental eyes looking me over. They would then give disgruntled sigh, open their draw and slam an order form on the table.
Thinking back to why I found it difficult to ask someone to do something, I was able to address my worries, realising most people are reasonable and happy to help!
Make sure to put your coworkers over
Something I’ve made as a rule whenever someone helps me out, is to repay them in the only way I can – by expressing my upmost gratitude that they helped.
This will help your reputation, and knowing that you’re a good one who appreciates their work will make them keep assisting in you in future.
You can be grateful for their efforts by:
- Put them over in meetings for a job well done.
- Sending an email of appreciation to their manager.
- Thank them in front of colleagues.
- Thanking them to their face.
They’ll appreciate you’ve gone to the efforts to recognise them, boost their credibility and not take all the credit.
Add time pressure
You know where I talked about planning? Well, when you are organised, you can add time pressure to any of your deadlines.
Just by setting a deadline on an email, you’ve created an informal baseline agreement of what expectations for response are.
Here are some tips to set that time pressure:
Play it smart with people who leave everything to the last minute:
Always ask for it a day or two earlier than it’s actually needed.
Be realistic with your deadlines:
Avoid telling people to submit it by 5pm Friday, as no one believes you plan to read their work over the weekend.
You need to be credible with your deadline, otherwise people will believe your deadline is serious.
Be clear when the deadline is:
Avoid saying ‘close of business’ as that could mean anytime depending when someone finishes work (Tip learnt from a smart-ass hospital consultant).
Be random with your deadline:
A trick I learnt from the book Never Split the Difference was when they wanted to seal the deal of a ransom fee in a hostage negotiation, after a period of haggling the kidnap victim’s family would then throw out a final random number, such as $3457.
Why this amount?
Why not a straight $3000 or $4000 dollars?
With such a specific figure, this gave the impression the family were giving every last dollar they could afford.
I started doing this when setting deadlines in emails at work, giving random times, to make colleagues think I was giving them the last minute I could spare them!
And odd times like Tuesday at 1.15pm always seemed to catch the readers eye!
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Recognise different ways people work
I’m an introvert.
If you ask me to read a document and make comments, I like to block out three hours in the afternoon, then email back a copy with comments when I’m done.
But some people you work with, want you to setup a call to go through a document line by line, together.
I despise this approach, thinking it’s an inefficient use of time, and for my personality type, overwhelming.
However, if you want to make sure your colleague meets the deadline, sometimes you have to compromise and recognise the different ways people like to work.
There are many ways you can get things done by seeing how people work differently:
For someone who is extremely busy:
Pick out the highlights what they need to know, and be clear what action you want them to take.
For the social butterfly:
Schedule a call. They are probably back to back in meetings because they love to discuss everything – the only way to get it done is speak to them direct.
For the introvert:
Email them through what they need to do, offer to jump on a call if needed.
Drop them a message as a gentle prompt when deadline approaches. Repeat the offer of a call.
For the team with many people involved and many disagreements:
Schedule a call.
Get all the relevant people in the room.
Ask them to get all of their problems out on the table.
Get through addressing as many of these as possible.
Go away and look at ways to solve and resolve.
Park conversations that aren’t going anywhere to the side.
Schedule further calls as needed.
Work colleagues failing to meet your deadlines can be a major source of stress and anxiety.
The trick to getting the work done is by:
- Planning your time.
- Not being afraid to assert yourself with a follow-up.
- Add some sort of deadline that gives you enough time to do your follow-up action.
- Appreciate different personality types
As a final note, I just wanted to share some advice I always remember about deadlines.
If you miss a deadline because you didn’t get the input you expected from others, then ask yourself
“What is the worst that can happen?”
As long as the answer isn’t “Someone will die” then there are always ways around the problem.
Wishing you the best in your success
James @Perfect Manifesto