will you

Will you?

A client CEO was struggling to get firm commitments from his team to get tasks done on time. He acknowledged that he too was guilty of not following through and was setting a poor example. The result? The company’s #1 Strategic Project (Big Rock) was off track and he was feeling frustrated.

I had 2 recommendations. One macro, and one micro.

Macro level

Institute a “No Excuses Policy”.

Here is my list of “Task Rules” I’ve used to create a “No Excuses” culture with teams I managed in the past:

  • No surprises. No excuses
  • A task is a promise. Due dates are “commits” not “hopes”
  • Don’t give a date by which you “hope” to get the task done, “commit” to a realistic date that others can count on
  • Between now and the due date, it’s OK to ask for help if you get stuck, or renegotiate your commitment if something happens outside of your control
  • However, it is totally unacceptable to show up with an excuse on the due date with the task not done

These are just my rules. Involve your team members and craft your own unique set of Task Rules to ensure you and your staff make “impeccable agreements”. Once finalized, post your Task Rules somewhere visible and point to them during team meetings whenever you need to call someone out.

For a “no excuses” policy to work, you need to set SMART goals the right way so everyone clearly knows what is expected of them.

Secondly, don’t overwhelm people with too many demands. If you want to add a new project or task, which existing one(s) are you willing to sacrifice? Acknowledge the tradeoffs you are willing to make. I often say to clients, “If everything is important, then nothing is”.

Micro level

The words you use when getting a commitment can make all the difference. I use these 2 variants.

“Just to confirm, you will get this done by (date)?” or
Will you get this done by (date)?”

And I wait for verbal confirmation.

Confirming each task with “you will” or “will you” language helps to refine due dates and significantly increases the level of commitment from the task owner.

I learned this in the USA from a workshop I attended with “The Godfather of Influence” Professor Robert Cialdini. He shared a study of how his team reduced reservation no-shows at a restaurant.

In the past, the receptionist would say, “Please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation.”

Cialdini asked the receptionist to reframe the request as a question, and add two words, “Will you please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation?”

Pause, and wait for verbal confirmation from the customer along the lines of, “Yes of course”.

No-shows dropped by 67%.

Will you give these suggestions a try?

Until next time…