The lack of follow-up is driving me mad, help!

The lack of follow-up is driving me mad, help!

In general my team is great. The issue is that their follow through is horrendous. They’ll inevitably miss deadlines even if they set them themselves. I’ve talked to them individually and as a group. They’ll do ok for a week or so and then it starts happening again. What should I do? S.C., Raleigh, NC

Since this is a group issue, call everyone together and lay out the consequences to missing deadlines. Make the meeting 15 minutes long. Don’t disclose the topic in advance and don’t chit chat—you want to set a serious tone. Then state the problem and your planned solution. It could sound something like this, “I’ve talked to each of you about constantly missing deadlines and it’s had no discernible impact. It is unacceptable because keeping your word is a baseline expectation for each of you. And if you can’t make a deadline, you’re expected to manage expectations by informing those affected and negotiating an extension or compromise.

My role assumes you’ll do your jobs. I’m not able to perform at my best because I spend so much time chasing things that you’ve promised the team. And I have no desire to be a taskmaster. So I’m going to stop protecting you from the consequences. That means when management requests information and you don’t provide it when you say you will, I’ll be leaving areas blank in my reply and will indicate who was responsible for providing that information. I’ll be sure to cc you so you’re aware of what is being communicated upward. This is not ideal but you leave me no choice.

We’ll continue to leave 10 minutes at the end of any meeting to make sure everyone knows what each person has committed to do. If you’re waiting on information from one of your teammates, please don’t come to me. Figure out how you are going to get what you need.

‘Meets Deadlines’ will be added to each of your performance goals and you’ll be assessed on this parameter along with all your other performance measures during your review.

If you can’t make a deadline, there’s no shame in it. But you have to let others know you’re going to be delayed with enough time to adjust. If you have trouble staying on top of things you might want to ask a teammate to buddy up so you can keep each other accountable. It could be that you’re misestimating how long it takes to get things done. You are all capable people, I’m sure you’ll come up with a solution.

Continually dropping the ball is not acceptable in this team. I hope these changes will get results. If not, we’ll need to look at other measures to resolve this issue. I’m open to any and all suggestions.”

Ideally you want to wrap up right after and leave the room. If people try to explain why they miss deadlines, your answer is “that’s a reason, not an excuse.” Stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve versus how you feel about what you’re having to do. You need to be firm on the line you’re drawing or the situation isn’t going to improve substantially.

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