A Lost Deadline Doesn’t Mean the Game is Over

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 7, 2009

Teams set intermediate goals or “critical milestones” to accomplish the end game.  Sometimes the team “wins” and achieves the goal and sometimes the team doesn’t.  When they aren’t successful, it’s easy for teams to sink into a “loser” funk with a mindset that the game is already over.  But the game isn’t over.  The team just missed a deadline.  Now they need to work even harder to catch up and meet the next critical milestone.

When you find yourself trying to rally your team after a disappointing set-back:

Acknowledge the Pain.  Yes, you are disappointed, but not beaten.  I have seen too many leaders simply shrug off the significance and implications of a missed deadline.  If no one else feels your pain, no one else on the team will rise to the challenge to overcome an apparent defeat.

Feel Their Pain.  Not only explain how you feel, but put yourself in their shoes.  They are also disappointed and need to be acknowledged for all their hard work up to this point.

Look Ahead.  As a team, collectively vow to renew the efforts to get the team back on track.  Suggest some concrete examples of what the team can do to catch up.  End on a positive note, looking to the future.

Don’t Be Stupid.  Try not to do something that runs counter to the reason why the team missed the milestone.  For example, if a major contributing factor was the lack of resources, don’t fly the corporate jet out to deliver the news.  Be economical and fly commercial.  Remember, you want to motivate, not deflate!

And save the primal screams for the Super Bowl.

Question:  How many times have you lost out because you just gave up after missing a deadline?

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