Let’s Talk About Deadlines

Like all stress-inducers, deadlines are an entirely human construct.

Let’s Talk About Deadlines

Insight from Wes Kao

Like all stress-inducers, deadlines are an entirely human construct.

They don't exist outside of our brains, inboxes, or calendars.

Despite this fact, teams often have trouble communicating about deadlines effectively.

Many conversations between managers and direct reports are rooted in anxiety, frustration, or both.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Deadlines are set with imperfect information by managers who, if they're doing their job right and leading rather than "teaming," will have less direct knowledge of how long a series of tasks takes.

So, what is the solution? How do we, as managers, take the anxiety out of these conversations while maintaining accountability?

The answer is pretty simple: good managers will empower their reports to flag any concerns around a deadline as soon they arise. 

The earlier any concerns come to light, the easier they are to manage and mitigate. 

What often prevents these conversations from happening until they're too late is the initial anxiety of broaching the topic. It's on the manager to encourage and reward instances in which these concerns are communicated. 

And, when these conversations do happen, it can lead to some positive outcomes:

  • You're able to identify and fix an inefficiency somewhere in the workflow. For example, someone is performing a spreadsheet task manually when they could be using a formula or macro that you share.

  • You reprioritize or reassign work so that the deadline can still be met, and both you and your team are better off.

  • In cases where meeting the deadline truly is unrealistic, you can adjust expectations early and avoid a situation where other stakeholders receive late notice.

There is no downside to clear communication, especially around something as touchy and potentially stressful as work deadlines.

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