Are you a manager? You set deadlines on your important projects or deliverables, which your team members, of course, committed to doing. Then this happens: As the deadline approaches, members of your team go MIA on you.

Now you're faced with finishing their work, which means spending long hours in the office the night before, and making your spouse and kids very unhappy because you're not home.

Has this ever happened to you? So what do you do now? Obviously, the part about doing the work for your team members has to happen, or (as they say--in the G-rated version, at least) the fit will hit the shan with a client or customer.

Moving forward, serious boundaries and clear expectations will have to be reset. While it's easy to point the finger at those missing team members for not pulling their weight and "doing whatever it takes" to get the work done on time, this is a 50-50 problem.

Leaders have to take responsibility for making the mistaken assumption that the team fully recognized their roles and responsibilities around deadlines. This is an easy fix, usually rooted around the need for more, and clearer, communication.

Sage Advice From a Leadership Coach

I read a similar real-life scenario on another blog written by a fellow leadership coach whom I admire immensely. Madeleine Homan-Blanchard, author and co-founder of Blanchard Coaching Services, offers sage advice for leaders who are faced with employees who don't get the concept of deadlines. Here's what Homan-Blanchard recommends:

  • Communicate clearly and unapologetically that deadlines are non-negotiable. Perhaps team members have the false impression that the deadlines you give them are soft ones, and not critically urgent, so they drop the ball. If this is the case, set the record straight, and reinforce it consistently as a team value.
  • When you give out work assignments, spend some one-on-one time with each person to talk through the steps involved. Get back to the basics: Scope out the time requirement for each step so that the work can be broken down into manageable pieces.
  • Rotate your deadlines so that you take some, but not all--and so does everyone else. Make sure your team knows that everyone is expected to step up and go the extra mile when things get tight.
  • Consider that your team may have some good ideas too. Actively listen to what's being presented, and engage them in crafting a solution for moving forward. You clearly have empathy for them, which is great.
  • Now you have to advocate for yourself--and from that position you'll be able to craft something that will work.