Get Promoted #1 – Manage Your Deadlines

Sometimes people will say to managers, “I want to get promoted.” First off, this is not the best start towards your boss (perhaps not the most professional) – maybe instead ask, “What can I do to get promoted? I’m interested in moving up.” Most of the time your boss is not just sitting around waiting for you to take the call to action and tell them you want a promotion and then immediately proceed to promote you because you were assertive. Nice try. Take responsibility and figure out what you need to do.

That’s what this series is – what things do we see as most common gaps in people as they are looking for the next move up.

The number 1 thing – people not able to manage deadlines. If you can’t hit your milestones consistently now, why should someone promote you to a job where it’s going to get worse and you have 2x, 4x, or 10x the number of spinning plates? Do you hit your deadlines? How often? Be honest. This could be holding you back, even if you aren’t getting the feedback.

So how do we fix it? There are a bunch of questions you can ask to help bridge these gaps as you take on the next project.

What’s the deadline for the current job? – Ask this question to you boss, director, producer, client, whoever has given you the work. This is what a professional does. Right away. If you don’t know when the deadline is, are you just hoping you randomly hit the target? If they don’t have a milestone for you, give them your target date so everyone is on the same page.

Can you complete it by the deadline given the resources? – Ask this question to yourself as it’s being assigned. Talk it through with your boss if needed. Again, it shows professionalism. Ask this question again as you in the midst of it and ask again as many times as needed during the process.

Take stock during the process. – This is similar to above question. Does it feel like things are running late? Can you recover and still hit the deadline? What are your options? If you see that you can’t or may not hit the deadline, shoot off a flare. Tell your boss what’s happening.

What is your history? – With similar workloads / projects, what has been the outcome before? How many times have you done this before? Once? Ten times? Two hundred? Use your experience to inform your forecast. How often did you deliver on time? If you can’t forecast, you look like an amateur. By the way, if you can’t forecast accurately and tell your boss the wrong time (overly optimistic target) with consistency, that’s a problem too.

What will it take to complete by deadline? – Assuming you’re not going to make it, what would it take to finish on time? If you had one additional person week would it land it? Do you need one more day to review material? How late will it be given the current resources? Think about needs and convey to your boss. Accuracy here is critical so your boss can help you with resources / clearing the way.

Do you have other obligations? – What else is floating around you that could affect THIS deadline? Telling your boss you are sorry but this week you had to take the kids to day camp or that you were busy on another project deadline is probably something you could have planned around. AKA it’s a ‘you’ problem. Knowing your capacity and what other creeping responsibilities you have haunting you will affect your output.

Do you have bad luck? – Does dumb, bad stuff always seem to happen to you and screw things up? Your computer eats your homework, your person always calls in sick at the wrong time, you got all the bad client notes, etc. Who cares. Your boss doesn’t want your sob story excuses. There’s always going to be some kind of battle. If you are a bad luck kinda person, have some contingency plans. Be like the Boy Scouts – be prepared.

Next level move: Capacity – Know how fast you can potentially work vs the assigned project. Most people just work at a default pace vs an approximate deadline until the project is done and use up all the time they have (Parkinson’s Law). By having awareness of true capacity / potential, you can more accurately predict what projects will hit (or not hit) deadlines AND if you can adjust based on how much room you have left to move.

By the way – answer these questions honestly. If you lie to yourself, it just makes you bad at deadlines. You get better by failing, seeing where the gap was, and adjusting.

Tough questions here but if you want things easy, you probably shouldn’t be promoted. It doesn’t get easier as you move up. Let’s get to work.