A reader writes:
I began managing my first direct report a 12 months in the past, let’s name her Sondra, and am happy to say that because of my devoted studying of your weblog, Sondra not too long ago shared with boss that I didn’t seem to be a first-time supervisor.
There may be one subject that I’ve been wrestling with in my administration of Sondra, which is what good time administration appears like at our division.
Most people in my division are very conscious of colleagues’ requests and can flip issues round in a short time for coworkers with out being requested. Sondra isn’t like that, in that if somebody requests her work on a venture and provides no timeline, she might take a number of days or perhaps a week or two to finish it, and when she is given a deadline, she tends to finish work by that deadline somewhat than considerably earlier than. My boss has been bringing me complaints from colleagues about this and voicing a priority that Sondra isn’t working her assigned hours if she isn’t turning issues round extra shortly.
I’ve spoken to Sondra immediately and discovered that she prefers to spend time letting issues percolate and dealing by way of tasks at a gentle tempo over a number of days as a lot as is feasible. I’ve requested her to proactively ask colleagues for deadlines and allow them to know what her proposed timeline for finishing work is, however my response has largely been to push again on the concept she isn’t working arduous sufficient if she takes 100% of the time that’s given to her to finish one thing. At this time I discovered myself telling my boss, “If the deadline is definitely before we’re telling Sondra, we must be those adjusting our communication.”
My tackle that is that Sondra’s work model is a bit completely different than most folk in our division, however that’s one thing we will acknowledge and accommodate. Nevertheless, I’m questioning if I must be extra direct with Sondra that our staff tradition doesn’t usually enable for the sluggish and regular tempo she prefers, and push extra for change from her?
I wrote again and requested, “Is Sondra prioritizing much less time-sensitive work (like tasks that genuinely might be finished a month from now) over issues that individuals would clearly desire to get within the subsequent couple of days? I’m attempting to determine if she merely can’t work on the tempo anticipated, or if she’s choosing issues up within the incorrect order.”
My understanding isn’t that she is prioritizing different work over these requests within the sense that she is ready to start out on them till different issues are finished, however somewhat that she may not bounce proper into engaged on them and wrap them up shortly as a result of she doesn’t really feel assured/snug working that means. She is going to learn the request, give it some thought, perhaps do another pretty time-sensitive work, then perhaps reference some related supplies to arrange to work on the request, then perhaps do another time-sensitive work once more, then work on the request, and eventually maybe take one other break doing different work in order that she will be able to evaluation her work with contemporary eyes earlier than sharing it.
I do know that how myself and my boss deal with conditions like this are to only pace up and/or work a bit of late to maintain issues shifting shortly, however I feel not everybody feels they will do their finest work that means. Our staff now could be bigger than it has ever been; we employed Sondra so we might have extra bandwidth and must hustle much less, however as a result of the remainder of us nonetheless function in that hustle mindset, I’m being advised it’s not honest for Sondra to “carry much less of the load.”
Effectively, should you really want Sondra to show issues round extra shortly, that you must inform her that — and the deadlines she’s given have to mirror that.
Penalizing somebody (even when solely in your head) for getting one thing finished by the deadline however not earlier than isn’t honest. Folks ought to be capable of belief that the deadlines they’re given are the actual deadlines.
That stated, there are conditions which might be extra “absolutely the newest you might get this to me is February 15, however it will actually assist to get it earlier should you can.” It appears like that is perhaps your staff tradition, and that’s why Sondra’s work tempo is clashing with individuals’s expectations.
If that’s the scenario, the answer is to have a really express dialog with Sondra about these expectations — spelling out that in your staff’s context, most deadlines are “that is the most recent potential, however sooner could be higher.” Speak by way of some latest tasks and the way shortly you’d usually count on to see her flip every of them round. Make certain there’s house in that dialog for her to inform you if she will be able to’t work that means, or worries concerning the high quality of labor she’d produce that means. Actually, if she doesn’t elevate these issues on her personal, you need to explicitly ask if she’s snug doing that or if she foresees any points with it.
However the different piece of this in all probability must be a tradition shift from the individuals who assign your staff work. In the event that they’re used to having the ability to give February 15 as a deadline whereas relying on being more likely to get it again days earlier than that, then they should change the best way they’re speaking these timelines. I can think about being of their sneakers and pondering, “Effectively, I don’t need to give a deadline of Febraury 9, as a result of if one thing got here up that was legitimately extra vital, I’d be high-quality with this being pushed again to the fifteenth … and I wouldn’t need anybody to work further hours to ensure this will get finished by the ninth … however in any other case it will actually assist to get it by the ninth. So can’t I simply say the fifteenth with the understanding that they’ll push to get it finished sooner?” And albeit, that strategy has labored to your staff up till now! However it’s not working for Sondra. So it would assist for individuals to present two deadlines for some time — a most well-liked deadline and an absolute deadline. For instance: “I’d actually prefer it by February 9 should you can, however Feburary 15 is absolutely the drop-dead deadline.” In spite of everything, these are the expectations they’ve of their head; it’s to everybody’s profit to get them out into the open so that they’re not secret.
It’s additionally value mentioning to your boss that as your staff grows, the extra you are able to do to explicitly spell out expectations, the extra profitable the staff will likely be. When a staff is small, generally you may get away with having a form of unstated “playbook,” the place you all occur to know “that is how we do issues right here” with out anybody spelling it out. However as you add individuals, they’re going to have a higher number of working types and frames of reference. In order you develop, that you must be actually deliberate about determining all of the stuff you may have in your head about the way you need individuals to function, after which look at that are these are preferences versus must-do’s (as a result of a few of them will likely be vital to maintain, however perhaps not all of them) and make these issues express for individuals, so that everybody is armed with the identical playbook about how to achieve your tradition.