From as early as we can remember, we have had the phrase ‘lead by example’ drilled into us. While it’s said to have been first spoken of by Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, it has been the main subject in many a speech or book since then.

This is important in all areas of business; but especially when it comes to creating an environment of accountability and meeting deadlines.

When we refer to meeting deadlines in this article, we’re referring to achieving what is in your direct control. This can be tactical things, such as sending an email, to more extensive and longer-term projects, such as launching a new website. Hitting ‘targets’ is slightly different as external factors may cause you to not achieve what you wanted, even though you’ve done everything you can to try and get there. An example is not hitting revenue targets due to a sudden global pandemic.

The behaviour of a leader will influence the behaviour of their team. We’ve seen actions from different leaders resulting in a very different approaches to deadlines. Consider these two cases:

Leader one:

The first leader sits in weekly leadership meetings and agrees to action several tasks based on discussions that are taking place. These tasks get added to an action list due to the importance of ensuring they get done, with his name assigned to them. But from week to week after that, these items do not get actioned. The reasons are not clear, and apologies are not given. They are not debated or removed from the list; they remain important and yet are not done. This list eventually grows; not only by the items not actioned by the leader but also by the tasks not completed by a team who says they’re going to do something but don’t do it.

Leader two:

The second leader sits in weekly leadership meetings and agrees to action several tasks based on discussions that are taking place. These tasks get added to an action list due to the importance of ensuring they get done, with his name assigned to them. When the team joins the leadership meeting the following week, they open the meeting document and find the action items crossed off to show they’re done or comments next to the items that are not yet completed with valid reasons. The team then does the same, and the list remains concise. The important tasks are actioned every week in the business.

“Leadership is not a position or title; it’s action and example.”

Donald H. McGannon

How can you expect your team to do what they say they’re going to do and meet deadlines if you as a leader don’t do what you say you’re going to do and meet your own deadlines? This works against creating a culture of accountability and trust, which is the environment you need to work effectively as a team. Leading by example in hitting deadlines is crucial and can change how a team operates.

If you have questions, we’re always keen for coffee.

Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!

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