It’s 8pm on a Friday. You have to submit a set of documents to an important client by midnight - on a project you are managing - and one of your team members has done a shoddy job. Great, you think, now I have to do it. Oh well.
Before you decide to skip dinner and the next episode of The Good Wife, stop. It’s tempting to fill in their gaps in order to meet the deadline, but don’t do it. It’s Not Your Job.
I’m not advocating the abdication of responsibility. What I’m saying is that as a manager, your responsibility is getting your team members to do their work. It is a common philosophy that since the manager is responsible for delivery that they have to get the delivery done when all else fails. And maybe this is sometimes true - but it’s the wrong way to work.
A manager’s job - your job - is to ensure that the work gets done. This means
- Splitting up tasks across team members according to their skills and experience
- Tracking their progress and the quality of their output
- Making necessary corrections far in advance of the deadline - through reassignments, training, or outright removal of non-performing team members
I’ve seen organizations where the managerial culture is to get the work done no matter what, where the manager is the worker of last resort. Managers took pride in being the stalwarts who ensured that projects got delivered. The people on whom the organization could depend. And that’s what they were - every single time.
An organization with this culture will not scale. And managers who spend their time doing their team members’ work will never learn how to break out of that loop and manage their team into better performance.
This culture isn’t good for your employees either. The lazy ones will learn that they can get away with non-performance, and the ambitious ones will wonder why they are failing and become demotivated.
It’s 8pm on a Friday. Don’t finish the deliverables. Instead, prepare your report of why the deadline was missed and what steps you will take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Identify the mistakes which were made, for example
- “We provided a time-and-effort estimate before understanding the spec”
- “One of our team members transferred in from another team and had to be trained”
- “We acted on the feedback from the Quality Team but failed to recognize that all quality issues were with this new member”
- “We failed to reallocate this person’s work to the other team members”
Because what your customers really want, and what your bosses want - whether they know it or not - is predictability. It’s okay if one project is delayed as long as you can give a reasonable data-backed guarantee that your future projects will always be delivered on time.