Every leader has their own version of what the word “good” will mean for them.
As will every employee.
Being a good leader is about more than getting good results – it’s also about team happiness, efficiency, and productivity.
But when your team is faced with a tight deadline, your role as their leader changes, too.
Here is how you can adapt to the situation and still make the most of it.
Have a system in place
The best thing you can do in the first place is to set up a system that all your employees will be familiar with and able to adhere to.
This system needs to encompass everything, including the designated communication channels, attendance and days off, responsibilities, and task delegation – the whole shebang.
The reasoning behind the system is that you, as the team leader, need to be aware of everything that is going on at a glance, without having to make a single call or send out a single email.
This will enable you to predict breached deadlines and the potential for disaster, and allow you to act accordingly as well.
A good project management tool to help you achieve just that is a Gantt chart, which you can customize as much as you need to.
Know your team
Another prep step that leads up to the tight deadline scenario we are discussing, and the most important prerequisite for success in any team, is knowing your players well enough to be able to assemble your starting lineup flawlessly.
Pardon the sporting reference, but you get the picture.
There will be people in your team who are great at what they do and are also great communicators. There will be those who are great at what they do, but have no idea how to communicate. And of course, there will be those who are great team players, but lack the skillset to get the job done at the same level.
Your team needs all of these players, but all of these players need to keep working on what they lack – with your help, of course, and that applies to the best of them, too. And you need to know where each of them stands, and where to place them at a time of crisis.
Set clear goals and agree on the necessary steps
When a deadline is tight, the most basic thing will help out the most: a well-laid plan.
Call a team meeting and come to a decision together – you don’t need to come up with the plan yourself. In fact, the more heads involved, the better it will be.
Make sure everyone takes on what they can and what they know. This is where your knowledge from the previous two steps comes in. Don’t let the nice, kind person who always volunteers but never gets anything done on time take on too much. Don’t let the most talented person take on all the work.
You are the leader, so it’s up to you to make the final call. But the more input each individual provides, the better your team will perform.
When things are stressful and the repercussions can be significant, it’s important to keep everyone in the loop.
Make it clear with your team that they need to tell you everything, even when they come off bad, or someone else does.
Fearing the consequences, employees tend to hide from their managers when they are struggling with something. And while you will never be able to eliminate this fully, try to enforce a rule that no punishments are handed out as long as the person in question raises the red flag in time.
You can hope to meet any deadline only once everyone is clear on their specific responsibilities and priorities. Your job is to achieve just that. Don’t hand all the info out to everyone: as you hold all the cards, you should know exactly who needs to know what.
Have a Plan B
Deadlines will be missed sometimes. It’s just that simple.
Before that happens, it’s important to have a backup plan in place.
First of all, it’s your job to let the higher-ups know that you won’t be able to do it in said amount of time. But instead of just coming in with the bad news, have a solution ready.
How much extra time will the task take? Can you add in some overtime to get it done sooner? What are the overall outcomes you will have achieved?
Try to focus on the good, not just the fact that the deadline has been missed.
Depending on the situation, there might be some music to be faced. You will be the one facing it, more likely than not. Don’t take it out on your team, if you are certain they could not have done better. If what it would have taken to meet the deadline is for everyone to perform at a perfect level the entire time, the deadline was never realistic, so don’t forget that.
At the end of the day, when things might feel like they’re getting out of control, always remember to trust yourself like the captain at the helm of a ship.
Don’t place upon yourself the burden of having to be perfect – good leadership rests on good organization, understanding, and communication. Strive to grow and learn from each experience, and with each new deadline, you’ll be better and better at all of these fields. And your team will definitely appreciate you for it!