I just got back from my high school reunion. Of course, none of us had aged a bit, and we had a wonderful time talking about kids (and even a few grandkids!). My friend Jennifer brought a copy of the yearbook with her and tucked inside as a bookmark was an old term paper. Her grade was scribbled across the top, and I won’t say what it was (OK, it was a B), but the thing I remember was how we always left those things until the last minute, even though our teachers were always after us to plan ahead.
My job is helping people develop their responsibilities as team leaders, teaching them to create an environment where the team’s work is accomplished efficiently and on time, and I can say that it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Let’s face it. It’s human nature. We procrastinate—just as much now as we did in high school.
But in business the stakes are higher. We aren’t just getting As and Bs. Now we have to focus on goals – how much, or what, by when? And that means we have to plan ahead. We have to treat each project with the proper urgency.
Set appropriate deadlines. If you sense a lack of urgency in your team, cut the deadlines in half. After all, Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time.” Giving people less time to finish a job can mean greater focus, creativity, and urgency.
Keeping those three goals in focus—how much, what, by when—for our teams, and applying the right amount of pressure, will help everyone deal with the details, problems and objections that sometimes feel like they will bury us.
Your teachers would be proud of you.
Melissa Marvin is the Performance Results Network Director for Community Banks and Credit Unions at Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.