For years I’ve tried to help others and their teams avoid one of the top productivity busters and stress points. It’s summed up by the adage, “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Everyone immediately knows what this means and indignantly exclaims, “YES!” So much of our frustration and stress comes from others’ failure to plan ahead which trickles down into our world. It’s maddening. Yet we have probably also been guilty of creating unnecessary emergencies for others.
At best, failing to plan ahead without consideration of how it might affect others is an inconvenience. At worst—usually the case—it feels rude, inconsiderate, and disrespectful.
I see this most often within a team or perhaps between departments in a larger organization. Teams made up of people who genuinely like each other and wouldn’t intentionally disrespect another teammate. Yet that’s exactly what they are doing when they choose to procrastinate, not considering how their choice will negatively impact others.
You can think of a hundred examples. No family, business, or church is immune. It’s the result of imperfect people—which applies to all of us. The only solution is for each person to accept responsibility and work to change the culture in their sphere of influence.
Breaking The Cycle
- Begin with yourself. Make a commitment to not become someone else’s problem. Consider how failure to meet deadlines and fulfill promises create hassles for others. You know how much you hate it when it happens to you. Don’t be that guy. And when you mess up, own it. Apologize. Consider what you didn’t do, should’ve done, and will do differently next time.
Cultivate respect in teams you lead. Whether as a parent, manager, supervisor, or volunteer group leader—wherever you have the ability to directly set the policy and the tone of a group’s culture, do it. Not as a drill sergeant but as a leader who inspires and brings out the best in people. Set the example. Insist on tools and protocols that when used, make everyone’s job and life better. If a conflict arises between team members or another team, get on it. Determine why and how to prevent it from happening again. Most of the time it comes down to better communication. But the solution always starts with respecting others enough to consider how your decisions impact them.
Honor deadlines. Every team speaks in terms of deadlines. Yet for some team cultures, those so-called deadlines are soft and often moved. A moveable deadline is no deadline! Sure, there may be bonafide reasons to reschedule a deadline, but they should be the exception and with serious thought as to how that might impact everyone involved.
Lead up. You may work for, work with—or live with!—someone who is always “last minute”. Waiting until the last minute to act. Changing their mind at the last minute. You can’t control other people—only yourself—but you can influence others. If a team member or leader generally fails to think ahead sufficiently, take the initiative and suggest a specific action plan with deadlines. Propose to put together and make sure reminders are communicated to all concerned. No, it may not be your responsibility, but you’ll have a better chance of averting the inevitable frustration—and a chance to help them experience the benefits and commit to the same in the future.
Protect important boundaries. Inevitably, you may be unreasonably disadvantaged by someone at work who thinks their lack of planning is automatically your emergency. For example, they forget about a project deadline and now need you to stay late or work your day off or weekend. You have a few options. You can simply do it, yet you know you’re dooming yourself to repeat this in the future. You might agree to it this time because you want to be a team player, yet let them know this puts you in a tough place due to your family commitments. Or, if this becomes a frequent scenario or you have a commitment that can’t be changed, simply say you wish you could help and would have been happy to reschedule if you’d had advance notice. It is possible to be a good team player and at the same, not allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
The point is, you don’t have to be a victim. Nor do you need to be resistant and hard-headed. We can always afford to be gracious because no one is perfect. You can protect your time, your commitments, and help others grow to learn better habits at the same time.
It starts with respect. Help to model and cultivate a culture of respect with all you interact with. Learning to plan ahead with everyone’s best interests in mind is not only more productive—it’s being a good human.
Question: How do you help tactfully deal with other-imposed emergencies? Share your answer in the comments below.