I work in the consulting industry, so our work is project-based and we are typically under tight deadlines.

I’ve inherited a new team and most of the team members are not very proactive and effective, so I need to micromanage them and act as a pacesetter to hit our deadlines. I would rather be a democratic leader, but unless I apply pressure to them, they don’t hit deadlines. Because of this approach, I probably come across as very harsh and I think the team is afraid to communicate with me. I ask for their input during meetings, but it seems like they are afraid to speak up.

Do you have any suggestions for being able to put pressure on the team so that they hit deadlines, but at the same time not come across as a pace-setting dictator?


bflynn's picture

What I've seen work here is related to good project management skills, coupled with good feedback.

Break jobs down to 1 week chunks of work (use your corporate standard work week). With a 1 week time frame, you demand that the work be completed before the next Monday morning. If Friday rolls around and its not done, then remind people that you expect this completed before Monday. They can work the weekend. You should plan on being there for a few Saturdays (morning at least) if you believe any of your people will be there. If even one person sees you working on a Saturday, word will get around and it sets the standard - incomplete work is completed on the weekend. Reminder - don't compromise quality.

The rest is Manager-Tools standard.

If someone doesn't deliver, they're not in trouble, but give them feedback. Focus on behavior. If they don't deliver for several weeks, they're still not really in trouble, but give them feedback on not making good on their promises. Help them learn to focus and practice good time management. Evaluate their skills vs the difficulty of the tasks - are they capable? If no delivery continues, care about them, then go to level two. If they still don't get the message, move toward getting them out of there; now they're in trouble. Bottom line - someone who won't deliver doesn't belong in a project based organization. They are in the wrong job.

My team "lost" 3 of 7 people this way. It was a wake up call to the rest of us that wanted to be successful, but had drifted to a weaker standard - the broken window theory is definitely at work here. There should be public notice of the standard of delivery.

Note that in all this, micromanagement isn't a part of it. Having them check in every day is counter productive. You need them to take responsibility for their work, but micromanagement gives your responsibility for the work. The monkey is on the wrong back - at no time does their lack of delivering become your problem. Your problem is that the work is not completed - there is a subtle difference between that and no delivery. You cannot be responsible for their delivery.

If you've been micromanaging, it would be a good thing to mention as not working - they're enjoying it about as much as you are (not) and obviously, its not working. Things have to change. You give up the micromanagement, they give up the slackness.

First step - a team meeting where you lay this all out. Say what isn't working - 5 sentences. State how things will be different. Leave 1/2 hour at the end for questions. Take their feedback, but don't let it go to excuses...there are no excuses in the professional world. Its very possible they may have good suggestions to incorporate. Implement feedback at a minimum. In 3 weeks, start one-on-ones if you haven't already (schedule them now).

A lot of what I described, I only recognized in retrospect. At the time, I was young, dumb and least one still applies, you guess which. If there are questions, zero in on a point and I'll elaborate. Also, most of what I described here is what worked for us, but actual mileage may vary. Every situation is unique.


bteachman's picture
Training Badge

I had a similar problem when I was doing project management, but managed to over come it. I followed most of what Brian said with one exception. I had a informal meeting ten minute meeting with each person on the team once Wednesday at there desk, I found that some of the employees would have problems that they did not want to bring up in the weekly project meeting. Most of these problems were with them not getting the information they needed from the business unit in time to get done on time. Over three or four weeks they started to really work well with my self and the rest of the team and did not want to risk letting down the team. It also does not hurt that my employer offers encouragement for us getting projects done on or ahead of schedule.

mauzenne's picture
Admin Role Badge


I found myself wanting to layout *several* additional points (by the way, I really liked what Brian had to say), but let me just ask one question. What do your subordinates say about the problem?

In my experience (and I've had LOTS of consultants working for me), consultants, if anything, are focused on deliverables and dates. That so, the description of your team being seemingly unconcered about deadlines doesn't make sense to me -- there's something more there.

What do *they* have to say about the team's poor performance? I assume you want to know. Of course, if you don't want to know, we have other things to discuss. Smile

Be bold ... let us know exactly what they say to that question. Then we'll be able to help you.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I agree with everything said.

And, if things aren't getting done, and you work for me, and you're being thought of as a little intimidating... I don't care. I wouldn't want you that way a year from now... but for now, I'm probably okay with it.

That said, the word "intimidating" has always fascinated me. It's one of the few words that can only be applied when someone else experiences you. If you're alone in a room, you can be smart, or funny, or tall, or clever, or bright... but not intimidating.

I would argue that Mike's point could be broadened to... "what do you think of me?" I intimidate people, I'm told, but it's always people who are fearful in general. I'd ask whether that would work on the team.

There's nothing wrong with being direct. But that is not micromanaging. And as Brian says, micromanaging doesn't work.