Check-ins, Due Dates, and Drop Deadlines: Delegation Hacks that Produce Flawless Results

Wouldn’t it be nice if each task you delegated was flawlessly executed–and delivered before its deadline?

This might seem like a far-fetched dream, but it’s actually quite possible.

Let’s take a deeper look at the three hacks effective managers/leaders use to activate exceptional personal and team performance: Check-ins, due dates, and drop deadlines.

1. Check-ins:
Think of these as the goalies of delegated activities. When used effectively, they catch issues we might otherwise face mid-project or too late, resulting in adjusted or missed deadlines.For each delegated activity, ask “When do you want to check-in and provide an update?” or “Let’s back up from the deadline. What check-in dates do we need to schedule to makes sure we stay on track?”To avoid taking on “monkeys” (delegated activities that end up back on your plate rather than with those you assigned them to), be clear about what you expect at check-in. For example, “When we check in, what updates will you provide?” or “At our next check-in, please update me on________.” If you are vague about check-in expectations, you may get a “Hi, coach, I’m here to check-in” (just showing up and expecting direction from you).

For your next delegated activity, immediately set a check-in date. Consider when the task needs to be completed, and give yourself some leeway to ensure the deadline can be met flawlessly (more on that next). Ask the person responsible to articulate what they will share/deliver on the check-in date. Record the date and commitment on your calendar.

2. Due Dates:
This is when the project is due; it’s not the drop deadline. The important difference between a due date and a drop deadline is that the drop deadline is fixed. Tax day and flight times are examples of drop deadlines. Either you pay your taxes and show up for your flight on time or face the consequences, financial and otherwise.A due date falls before a drop deadline to ensure your team has time to make last-minute adjustments and flawlessly deliver by the drop deadline. Here’s a trick: When you delegate an activity, treat the due date as the drop deadline. Keep the drop deadline under wraps, so your team doesn’t think they have wiggle room on deadlines. For some, the difference between a due date and drop deadline can be hours; for others, it may be days. It pays to allow space for last-minute adjustments.

Make it a habit always to set due dates. Ask “by when?” or “what’s the due date?” to alert your teams and stakeholders that you have delivery expectations. Using the due date, work backward to set appropriate check-ins. Align due dates with drop deadlines to ensure you’ve allowed time for last-minute or unexpected changes.

3. Drop Deadlines:
These are non-negotiable deliverables with no wiggle room. Avoid sharing them unless they are obvious or well-known. To avoid coming off as a hard-nosed no-excuses delegator, consider creating space between due dates and drop deadlines to allow for flawless delivery.There’s a natural tendency to believe deadlines can be negotiated. This sets your team and you up for challenges that can be avoided by applying this deceptively simple delegation hack.

For your next delegation project, first set your drop deadline. Then give the responsible party a due date. Lastly, schedule a meeting to establish check-in dates.

Want flawless delivery from your team and yourself? It may be less complicated than you think. Begin by setting check-ins, due dates, and drop deadlines—then watch the on-time delivery magic unfold.