At a recent client event, I asked one of the volunteers to run an errand. The errand was fairly simple or at least I thought it was. One of our clients needed something from an office supply store. I was engaged in another project and couldn’t do it myself. All we needed was this supply to be picked up and brought back to the meeting. It was a simple job that should have taken 20-30 minutes.
After about 45 minutes, I broke away from what I was doing to make sure the task had been completed. When I found the volunteer I asked him if he had picked the supply up and brought it back to the client. He informed me that he had found the supply at a local office supply store. I again asked if he had picked the product up? He responded that no he hadn’t because he didn’t have a car.
When I made the request for him to pick the product up I was very specific and detailed in explaining what the assignment was. I emphasized that we were on a tight deadline and the purpose for the request and for the tight deadline. He confirmed that he understood. I also told him to let me know if he had questions or needed assistance.
Needless to say, I was stunned at his lack of effort and initiative in completing the task. As a result of his effort, I wasn’t as understanding as I could be given the clients deadline and need for this product. I immediately left and found a trusted colleague to perform the task. My colleague didn’t have a car either, but instead of letting that stop me from getting the product for my client, I gave him my car keys and corporate credit card so he could go and accomplish what needed to be done. The volunteers lack of effort left us in a bind with our client and made for some tense moments as we frantically tried to fulfill his request in the appointed deadline.
This experience drove home to me the lack of initiative, accountability and ownership some people take in the way they perform their jobs. Especially when it comes to accomplishing tasks associated with a deadline. In my mind this individual doesn’t have what it takes to accomplish great things in his career and will probably be left on the sidelines wondering why he isn’t more successful the rest of his career.
I’ve written about the importance of deadlines in the past but it bears repeating in this context. In situations like this, the ability to meet deadlines is critical to success. With that in mind, here are five tips to ensure that people are taking ownership of their careers and are meeting critical deadlines.
- Understand the task and the deadline: If you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing you’ll never be able to get started let alone be accountable for the project. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure that you understand the task and the ultimate goal. A key component is to take notes or write down what your assignment is and the steps necessary to accomplish the task. I’ve worked with people that I’ve shown how to perform certain tasks where multiple steps are involved only to see them not take notes or write anything down. When I ask if they want to write it down they decline saying they’ll remember how to do it. When it comes time to do the task, they inevitably come back asking me to show them again. Part of being accountable is ensuring that you’re learning how to do the things that the job requires.
- Create a plan to accomplish or complete the assignment: The plan may be as simple as calendaring time on Outlook to start and complete the task. For more complicated or involved projects it may require a strategy spanning several days, weeks or even months. This plan should include dates and deadlines for accomplishing specific tasks as well as coordinating contributions from other team members or outside vendors and partners. I recommend being as detailed and specific as possible and in being realistic in setting achievable deadlines. I’d rather be generous in time allotments than being too aggressive and not allowing myself enough time.
- Consider and plan for involvement from outside sources: Often, depending on the size and scope of a project, it may require assistance and involvement from other team members, partner or vendors. In these instances, build these types of contributors into your schedule and coordinate in advance with them to ensure their availability.
- Plan for the unexpected: Even the best-laid plans can go sideways on you. Think of the things that could go wrong and have a backup plan in the event that one or more of these things occur. In the heat of the moment, a crisis or unexpected event can cause not only a delay but a disaster if not handled properly. Planning in advance will allow you to revert to your plan and avoid disasters or serious delays that commonly accompany an unexpected occurrence.
- Don’t let the unexpected or challenges stop you: An attitude of nothing’s going to stop me, combined with the other points listed above will go a long way to overcoming the challenges that always pop up. In the example I gave above, simply asking somebody to help will go a long ways to avoiding the near disaster we almost had on our hands. If you don’t have a car ask somebody that does to go pick up the necessary supplies. If there are other challenges, don’t just ignore it and hope that it goes away. Part of being a good leader is being a problem solver. I had a boss once that used to tell me, “Jeremy, you are the solution.” What he meant by that was that he trusted me and that he was empowering me to do what needed to be done to accomplish our objective. Knowing this made the job easier because I knew I didn’t have to ask permission, I could simply do what needed to be done to accomplish the task.
By being a problem solver and finding the solutions to issues and problems you take ownership, are accountable and take the initiative to achieve success in any walk of life. If you adopt the attitude that you are the solution you’ll enhance your career and become the type of employee that advances and is able to achieve your on personal career goals.
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
Author: Jeremy Kartchner | Google+