Today more than ever, we are asked to do more with less, and do it faster. As leaders, we need deadlines in order to effectively prioritize that unreasonable workload. Your team needs deadlines to ensure they are working on what matters most. It’s your responsibility to teach them the importance of setting deadlines.
More importantly, give your team the necessary tools. If you teach them how to set deadlines and how to achieve them, you will be pleased with the results — and so will they. Everyone wins in this equation: the organization, you and your team.
There is a right way and a wrong way to go about setting deadlines. The wrong approach would be to impose a deadline on your team without any discussion. How can you impose a deadline on them without giving them input? They have first-hand knowledge on what other factors could impact their ability to hit “your” deadline. Use this approach and you will find yourself with a team that has a morale problem because of consistently missing “your” deadlines.
The best leaders have a project kick-off meeting. Discuss the project, resources needed and empower them to set “their” deadline. If their deadline meets the needs of the organization then go with it. Mission accomplished: deadlines are being met and you have yourself a collaborative team.
Deadlines are not going to be met without a plan. A typical deadline will be days, weeks, months or even years away. A project plan is a map for your team for the duration of the project. It will involve a series of deadlines to ensure the final deadline is met.
The best project managers ensure that all deadlines within the project plan are met. If you keep pushing off the deadlines of the tasks within the plan, eventually you will run up to the deadline date and be out of time.
To avoid this, schedule weekly meetings. At these meetings, you can review last week’s deadlines, upcoming deadlines and who is responsible for what. This approach will help to keep all members of your team focused on what matter most.
I once heard a goal defined as a “dream with a deadline.” If you want your goals/dreams to be accomplished sooner than later then set a deadline.
Douglas Adams, famed author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” once said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” As funny as his quote is, missing deadlines in business is not funny.
I get that procrastination seems to be part of our DNA. Trust me, I get it because it’s in mine (as I sit here and feverishly type to meet my deadline). Want to avoid that whooshing sound? Collaborate with your team, plan and set reasonable deadlines. Embrace that deadline as a source of motivation. Crossing that project finish line prior to the deadline is one of the most rewarding aspects of business.
Dennis W. Lejeck is the president and founder of Black Knight Security. Dennis is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and has also participated in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® program. BKS was recognized in 2008, 2015, 2016 and 2017 as one of the 100 Fastest Growing Companies in Pittsburgh.