Missed deadlines by team members are bound to happen at some point, and it’s really nothing to get worked up about.
However, when it does happen, how you respond to the situation really sets the precedent for how your team works on projects going forward.
So here are a few tips to help you manage frequently missed deadlines:
1. Don’t stay quiet…
It can be frustrating, but really make sure that you’re communicating any work requirements adequately. You are just as responsible for your communication as your contractors are. Ensure they are aware of the priorities and deadlines for everything you assign to them. If you have given them a few things to do, make sure they know what needs to be completed now and what can wait until later.
I’ve had problems with this before, but I’ve learned from my own mistakes. I have previously assigned a number of tasks and thought I hadn’t overloaded anyone. I gave everything a deadline and priority, but it seemed like a bunch of deadlines were coming up at the same time. When a thing like that happens, it’s my fault and I need to ensure I’m more careful in assigning/changing deadlines and assigning a priority to tasks.
Everything you assign should have a deadline, but of course some deadlines are more flexible than others. Make sure your contractors are also aware of what needs to absolutely be completed on time and which deadlines can be stretched.
If you do find deadlines are not being met, don’t stay quiet and let yourself become more and more frustrated over time, because your contractor may not even know it’s an issue. When you let it build up like that and then finally do talk about it, it may not come out so nicely. Communication is DEFINITELY the key.
2. Can you live with it?
If your contractors are having trouble meeting deadlines, ask them if there’s anything you can do, ask if you aren’t giving them enough notice or if they aren’t sure of the priorities. Try to determine if there’s an even deeper issue. Maybe it’s taking them longer because they’re new to working with you and they’re doing new kinds of tasks. Or maybe there is a personal issue that is keeping them from working. Again, keep the lines of communication open, so you’re on top of all potential issues.
If the problem continues, you have to decide how much it matters to you. If a job is a day late and it’s not that important, decide if you can live with it or if you have to let the contractor go.
Again, realize you’re not really dealing with an employee / employer relationship. It’s not as though your contractors are in your office from 9:00 to 5:00 and within that 9:00 to 5:00 period you can expect them to have certain things done. They are still working in their home and they have other things going on. Not that that’s an excuse not to get work done, but realize it’s a different situation so sometimes you do have to be a little bit more patient.
If they’re missing important deadlines and it’s causing you grief in your business, you’ve talked about it and nothing seems to be changing, then it’s probably time to move on and be firm in your decision.
3. No, it’s not okay.
Remember, how you respond will set the precedent for your team members. So if somebody misses a deadline or doesn’t show up on time, or whatever the situation, don’t say, “Oh, that’s okay.”
It’s not okay. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction to make the other person feel better by saying “That’s okay.”
Don’t say that. Instead, say, “Tell me what happened.”
Give them an opportunity to explain themselves and then you can say, “Well, I can understand that situation. I’m sure it won’t happen again.”
If instead you’re always saying “Oh, that’s okay. No big deal,” people are more likely to take advantage.