Watching the clock was more fun when it was Grandfather Clock!

We all live in a world of deadlines. Sure, some are more serious than others. Some are firmer than others. But the fact is, America (and the world) doesn't run on Dunkin, it runs on deadlines. And, inevitably, even the most conscientious of us misses a deadline. Since it can, and does, happen to everybody, there's opportunity in the way you handle the miss.

We tend to respect people who cop to missing a deadline (or making a mistake) and offer a quick solution to make it right. The negative impact of the error on their image is reduced by their accountability, and the problems caused by it are mitigated by their suggested solution. Here's what we can learn from them:

  • Inform early. The time to alert someone to a miss is BEFORE it happens -- as much in advance as possible. This gives them time to make a plan b or figure out a work-around.
  • Keep it brief. Offering 300 words about your head cold or blowing out your knee swing dancing just makes you look like a tool a sympathy-seeking whiner who's not accountable.
  • Avoid blame. Fingering someone else as the cause -- even when it's true -- is a slippery slope. As is mentioning how busy you were with other projects. We're all busy. What makes you so special?
  • Solve the problem. What you can explain is how you're going to address the problem you've created. Include the time by which you'll have the original work done, plus any other tasks that are still on the table, or developed as a result of your miss.

So the next time you find yourself muffing a deadline, think before you cop. Follow these guidelines and choose a path that makes you look like an accountable, hard-working colleague, not a time-wasting whiner or blamer who's just making excuses.