How to Hold Team Members Accountable to Project Deadlines

A challenge that most project managers face is leading a team of people who don’t directly report to them. In other words, the project manager isn’t their boss, and each team member has their main job responsibilities that take priority over project tasks. This makes it more difficult to hold people accountable to deadlines. Fortunately, there are several ways to help team members see the importance of deadlines and be able to meet them.

Tip #1: Get Input on Deadlines

As you draft the project plan, work with each team member to identify tasks and establish reasonable deadlines. Ask about their other work responsibilities (such as Sunday service prep) and confirm they’re offering deadline suggestions that take the rest of their workload into account. When a team member is the one who provided the deadline, they’re less likely to be annoyed when you remind them a task is due soon. Plus, they should be able to complete the task on time since they kept their regular workload in mind.

Tip #2: Provide Reminders

We’re all susceptible to forgetting about tasks that aren’t in our regular routine. Project team members are no different. To help them keep up with deadlines, provide a reminder about tasks that are due within the next 2-4 weeks. If the project management tool you use can do this automatically, use that functionality to send the reminders.

Tip #3: Be Proactive

As you offer reminders and meet with team members, ask if there are any obstacles or potential issues that may prevent them from meeting a deadline. This could be a new job responsibility that their boss added to their plate, a family emergency they dealt with recently that has put them behind schedule, or even waiting on another team member to complete a task before they can start. Discuss those issues and work to remove obstacles or resolve them ASAP.

Tip #4: Share the Big Picture

Sometimes team members think missing a deadline won’t be a big deal because they don’t know how that task impacts others. To prevent that issue, share a high-level view of the project timeline with the team. Point out key milestone tasks that, if delayed, could derail the entire timeline.

Tip #5: Manage the Workload

Before the project starts, talk with team members about their current workload. Discuss what tasks they’ll have for the project and how those will integrate into their workweek. Talk with church leadership about team members who may be overloaded. See if they can adjust priorities or delay other efforts so team members can reasonably complete their tasks on time.

During the project, periodically poll the team to see if any individuals have capacity to help a team member who’s struggling. Share the workload and reassign tasks if needed.

Projects such as planning a big outreach event, launching a new small group ministry, or renovating part of the church building are all additional efforts for an already busy staff. Keep this in mind as you create project plans and set deadlines. Work with church leadership to understand where this project fits in relationship to other efforts – is this a higher or lower priority? Those factors will help you establish a realistic plan and communicate priorities effectively to the team. All of this plays a role in how well the team will respect and meet deadlines.

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