My Employees Aren’t Delivering . . . Now What?
Via All Business Experts : Can you consistently count on each of your employees to deliver as promised?
If not, you are certainly not alone. Non-delivery or incomplete delivery on commitments is one of the biggest challenges that leaders and managers face today.
There are many factors that lead to this problem – the urgency of day to day obligations or the human tendency to procrastinate – but the bottom line is people are just plain busy. Talented, well-intended people are not always reliable for a variety of reasons. As a manager, it is your job to get involved and figure out what is actually happening. It’s important to be compassionate about your employees’ lives and circumstances, but you should not accept failure of delivery blindly.
The orchestration of work, collaboration, and progress between meetings all depends on the exchange and completion of commitments, which means that you and I need to get better — much better — at being clear when we establish commitments and then following up to ensure that people deliver on time.
Be as Clear as Possible Up Front
At the time a commitment is exchanged between you and your employees, it’s important to:
Be incredibly specific. Who needs to do (X) by when (Y)?
Check the date. Does the date really work for everyone involved? Let them know they may make a counteroffer with a different deadline.
Agree on progress check-in points. Getting an agreement in place up front will make it easier for both sides to stay current on progress.
Ask them to call. Agree that if employees don’t feel they can complete the task as agreed upon, they should let you know; things come up in life. Still, you want them to let you know so you can adjust if necessary. Dealing with a missed deadline after the deadline is simply a place you don’t want to be.
Track and Follow Up to Ensure Completion
Not all commitments need to be tracked — but many do, especially if the project cannot tolerate delays. This is not micromanaging; this is not an issue of trust; it is simply good project management and supervision.
You do not want to have to deal with non-delivery on a consistent basis. It’s unhealthy for the project and for the people involved. People love to work with a sense of accomplishment that only comes with delivering time after time.
Address the Failure
Take a moment to remind yourself that in our culture non-delivery has become the norm. Consider that you may need to transform the culture rather than reprimand a person. Come up with a supportive perspective for a conversation about missing a deadline.
Next, find an opportunity to explore why something was not delivered as agreed upon. Talk about the circumstances in terms of “what happened.” Then ask the employee to make a new commitment. Avoid using the word “trust” in this conversation as it tends to make people feel like they’ve done something wrong.
If a problem-solving conversation doesn’t produce the change you’re looking, you may need to take a stronger approach to get your message across or to convey that an employee’s actions are not acceptable. If all else fails, try to get the employee out of the loop so you don’t need to rely upon him for critical tasks.
These last suggestions, of course, are last resorts. I think you’ll find that being specific and direct in a conversation is sufficient for most people.
If we all focus and work on changing the attitudes and perceptions of making and keeping commitments, then we’ll have a new workplace culture — one that delivers — one that Yoda in Stars Wars described when he said, “Do or not do, there is no try.”
About the Author
Post by: Paul Axtell
Paul Axtell has spent the last 15 years designing and leading programs that enhance individual and group performance within large organizations. He is also the author of the new book Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversation.
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