There was a moment the other day when this Managing Director said to me, “I’m so fed up with my team member! We have a meeting, I set out the tasks to do that week, and we get to the end of the week and he just hasn’t done them.”

“There was a big project last week and we almost missed the deadline because of him!” he said to me. “He’s letting the team down because when he doesn’t do his part of the work, the rest of them can’t do theirs.”

This is the same story I hear in many businesses across industries: “Why aren’t my staff delivering on deadlines?”

You’re doing all your regular team meetings, but why aren’t things moving forward at the rate you expect?

Here are the three main reasons, generally, why team members do not deliver on the tasks you’ve set and the questions to ask to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place:

Reason #1 For Not Meeting Deadlines: There is too much to do

It’s easy to accidentally pile on the work a little too high. The double-edged sword of trusting team members to get on with their work independently is that you also don’t have direct visibility on all the bits of work they do.

Question #1 – To Prevent Work Overload

The best way to prevent this from being an issue is that when you have your team meeting make sure you ask the person, “How does this look in your diary?”

Check that they actually have space in their diary, and request that they give you a very clear timeline of when they are going to complete the task.

If what you are asking them to do is a particularly large project, ensure that the project is broken down into more immediate milestones. That way, both you and your team member will have a way to more frequently know whether you are on track or not.

It can also be very helpful to have the deadlines and milestones broken down in a very visible manner – a big whiteboard in the office works very effectively, as do spreadsheets of 90-day plans, such as the ones we do at our Strategic Growth Intensive with our clients.

Reason #2 For Not Meeting Deadlines: They don’t understand what they are meant to do

As the business owner, you probably have a wealth of experience and knowledge. You probably also know a lot more than you are even conscious of – a lot of your skills may have become so common to yourself that you forget they are skills you have learned.

You must remember that a lot of skills and jargon you have fully internalised has not yet been taught to some of your team members and they may not have understood you straight off the bat.

Question #2 – To Define What Needs Doing

At the end of your meeting, make sure you ask your team member, “Is it ok for you to recap what we have talked about here?”

This ensures you are on the same page and gives them the power to take ownership of their tasks by reiterating them in their own language.

This is something that business owners do not do enough.

It’s easy to tell people what to do. But that is not giving direction. Direction is about setting people on a path to the completion of tasks, which means making sure they fully understand what they are doing and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

By getting them to recap, you can ensure you pick up on any gaps in the knowledge or forgotten parts and nip it in the bud before they make a mistake by accident.

Reason #3 For Not Meeting Deadlines: They don’t see the value of the work

If your team are not bought into the reason behind the work they are doing, it’s very hard for them to feel motivated to do it.

On the other hand, if you give them a clear understanding of the ‘why’, often team members will do almost anything to make that deadline.

Question #3 – To Clarify Purpose

Here you can ask a pretty direct, almost rhetorical question, “Do you see the value here?”

If you detect a hint of uncertainty when they respond to this, then dig a little to make sure. Ask them to describe why the task is important in their own words to truly get that buy-in.

And again, if they’re unclear on the purpose then this is the chance to give them some clarity on that before it even starts to become a problem.

Communication is the Response You Get

Everything in your business starts from you as the business leader. If you are having any issue in your business – in this case, the issue being that your team members are not doing the work you are expecting them to do – the first thing to do is reflect on your own behaviour.

Check whether your own communication has been effective here and whether you could be asking better questions during your meetings.

If you ensure all 3 questions are asked, it would take something a bit more extraordinary for your team members to not meet their deadlines.


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