Do you resist getting or giving by-when dates when assignments are being made? We study human nature and know that by-when dates can be the hardest thing to commit to. We understand that some of this resistance stems from wanting to “stay loose” and not have to risk a real deadline or being afraid to over-commit and under-deliver. But the fallacy is this – when you don’t give a by-when date, the people who are counting on you make up their own “imagined and unspoken” by-when date for you. Then, because you don’t have clear expectations set – and we don’t write recaps of our meetings with others as my colleague, Brianna Marth, suggests in her blog Capture Your Meetings with Recaps – you are almost guaranteed to fail.
With real, concrete by-when dates in your organization, you and your team can produce the unimaginable. By-when’s, as we call them, allow us to plan our schedule to work on things when we know we’ll be getting them and, if your firm adheres to them with rigor, even put projects out of our heads knowing they will show up on our radar on a certain date.
When you give by-when’s and then keep your commitment, you will earn the trust and respect of your team members and distinguish yourself as a true leader – especially because the behavior is so rare! Because people are counting on you and the integrity of your word, resetting expectations when you can’t make your by-when is also key. Sometimes you won’t be able to make commitments, and it’s important to disclose that as soon as you know it so others can make alternate plans or not wonder about the status.
When commitments aren’t met, we work really hard not to make others wrong for gaps in their integrity especially when expectations are reset and there is full disclosure and communication along the way. Life happens and we use by-when dates to move the things we are committed to forward, not to micro-manage people or point fingers when they don’t happen. There are real consequences, however, when we don’t keep our commitments, and sometimes we need to communicate those for full understanding so plans can be changed if needed. We also want to work on teams that are reliable in getting their stuff done and if a team member misses their pieces of the puzzle consistently, we have straight, non-punishing discussions about the importance of keeping their word and meeting by-when dates and most will step up and resolve the matter. Those that don’t may not be the kind to keep on the team – they create uncertainty and breed distrust, which doesn’t bode well on a high performance team.
Setting by-when dates makes work – and life – more functional! We have witnessed what’s possible in productivity, team communication, trust and results by making by-when commitments cultural. Start giving them for all of your assignments or actions you commit to and your team will follow. The results will be unimaginable!