When you and your stakeholders don’t see eye-to-eye on the timing of communications and deadlines—stress happens.
Why is setting time expectations so important?
The challenge for leaders is that if you don’t set expectations, your stakeholders will. That means you may go for months—or even years—feeling like you’re constantly being thrown for a loop by everyone else’s whims. Most constituents don’t know what’s reasonable in your position, so for everyone to be happy you need to let them know what to expect.
What’s one of the biggest problem areas?
Communication is by far one of the biggest issues. If leaders don’t set clear boundaries on when they will and won’t be available to answer constituents’ and colleagues’ questions, they never feel like they have a break.
What do you suggest to set time expectations about email, voicemail, etc.?
Set limits on when you and your staff will be accessible, and as much as possible, stick with them. Also, try not to set the expectation that you will answer communication immediately. If you consistently answer email and voicemail in about 24 hours, constituents and colleagues won’t be upset if they don’t hear from you right away.
What about when you don’t hear back from colleagues?
When colleagues don’t communicate a decision until right before a deadline, it can wreak havoc on your workflow. You can use this type of approach to set standards for communication with your colleague:
Dear [name of colleague]:
I’ve attached the proposal for the work we discussed. In order to meet your deadline of Friday, December 17, I’ll need to hear back from you by Friday, December 10. If I receive a decision from you after the 10th, we’ll need to move back the deadline.
We look forward to serving you well.
All the best,
Leader with Good Boundaries
Are there any other ways leaders can eliminate deadline stress?
If you don’t make promises to deliver decisions or services “by tomorrow” or “by next week,” you can reduce stress by increasing your timeline. Also, leaders shouldn’t make commitments to a deadline until they have a clear sense of when they can complete the work. Just because a constituent or colleague wants something as soon as possible, doesn’t mean that you should stay up until 2 a.m. trying to finish everything for them.
Any other final time tips?
If there’s any part of your workflow that’s causing you time stress, ask yourself the question: “Should I be setting my expectations differently for myself or others?” Most of the time the answer is “yes.”