In my corporate days, I had a boss who delivered early on deadlines and expected everyone on her team to do the same, except nobody told me that, and I wasn’t clever enough to ask. I suffered one too many painful public chastisements for being the last to complete a task, even though the deadline was weeks away, and I didn’t last long working for that manager before I decided to leave.
For over a quarter of a century I’ve studied how people in corporations approach deadlines, and I have discovered there are four typical reactions to impending due dates:
1. The early deliverer (like my former boss). The greatest danger here may be a lack of thought put into the final product. But early deliverers are great at finding the fastest way to achieve a task. If you manage a team, try teaming up an early deliverer with someone who approaches deadlines differently.
2. The spotty dabblers think a little, then they do a little. Then they repeat, perhaps multiple times. Spotty dabblers are most likely to miss a deadline because they are jumping between so many tasks it is hard to keep track. If you’re a spotty dabbler, you may be repeating work unnecessarily. Consider intentionally chunking out your work to make forward progress and avoid repeating work.
3. Adrenaline addicts leave their deadlines to the last minute. The danger here is increasing the probability that you will miss your deadline because you leave no capacity for competing priorities. The second risk is that you won’t produce your highest quality work due to exhaustion or insufficient time. If you have an adrenaline addict on your team, ask them for their work ahead of the real date to build in buffer time.
4. The most structured are the steady achievers. They plan and achieve deadlines early. If you have someone on your team who is a steady achiever, you may be mismatching their capacity to perform. Their workload could be too small, and you may need to stretch their capability further.
What is your thinking time and action time relative to tasks? Are you paying attention to where your team could be burning excessive energy and time on tasks that don’t merit it or perhaps achieving a deadline too early without giving it the proper thought and attention?
Ask your team about their preferred method of achieving deadlines. Then look at your whole team profile and consider how you can build on each of their strengths, perhaps by matching up different team members to play to their strengths.
Dedicated to growing your business,