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My staffers can't seem to meet their deadlines. How can I help them improve their performance?


If many people are consistently missing deadlines, the problem may be rooted more in your communication than in your staffers. Sometimes, what managers think is clear to their workers is actually confusing to them. This can occur, for example, when multiple projects are due at about the same time without you placing a priority on any of them. The situation then forces your staff to guess which ones you really need done by the target date, and which ones you can let linger.

The best way to prevent this is to get everyone to acknowledge a given deadline at the start of every project. That's also the time to query them about whether there are any obstacles to working within the agreed upon time frame. If no obstacles exist, everyone should now be on the same page with project timelines.

Following that, review project due dates regularly in a group meeting. Not only will this reinforce the deadlines with the individuals directly responsible for them one more time; it'll also create a situation where the entire team is made aware of every member's responsibilities. This adds a subtle social pressure to get the job done on time.

In addition, consider establishing consequences for missing deadlines. If you make them a part of performance reviews, you may see more deadlines met than missed.


Dan Lumpkin is an organizational psychologist and president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. E-mail your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com
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