How to get people to prioritize meeting deadlines

Not every deadline you have to hit is going to be reasonable.

Sometimes deadlines won’t even feel possible.

Part of your job as a consultant is to make the unreasonable possible. This often entails assigning a ton of action items and dates to people who probably would prefer you faded away into oblivion.

Part of having an action item that’s worth anything is making sure you have a mutually agreed due date.

But there’s another piece of the puzzle that’s frequently overlooked – the respect for the deadline.

With some people, just having their name with a due date next to it is enough to get them working toward a goal, but there are some that need a little something extra to let them know the deadline is untouchable.

How to get people focused on meeting deadlines

As a consultant, deadlines are central to your job (from a perception and profit standpoint), but you can’t meet them on your own. (Cue “Get by with a little help from my friends”.)

The secret to getting others to respect deadlines is an ancient torture technique you may be familiar with – setting up more status meetings.

The frequency of said meetings depends on the motivation of the person involved, how much time is left, and extent of executive visibility the task has. I’ve seen as frequent as 3 times per day.

The key questions you need to ask:

1. Are you still progressing as planned?

2. What obstacles do you have now?

3. What obstacles do you foresee?

Make everyone feel the pain of these extra meetings

When you set up the touch points to make sure people are doing what they said they would do, be sure to include their boss. You want to do this for a few reasons.

First, people push back much less when their boss is present and/or they know the request is coming from their boss.

Second, the boss is better in a position to move the person’s competing priorities so they can focus on the issue at hand. The boss also doesn’t want to sit in the meetings either, so task completion is in everyone’s best interest.

Third, the boss can make a decision on whether to keep pursuing additional detail or moving forward with the best information currently available.

You may feel like a jerk including the person’s boss. Don’t worry – that feeling will pass.