‘Get this done ASAP’

Set firm deadlines, not false alarms

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

What are the four most dangerous letters in the English alphabet? ASAP.

When delegating a task, many managers say they want something done “ASAP” instead of giving a specific deadline. While requesting results “as soon as possible” can underscore the urgency of the job at hand, it can also breed resentment if workers tire of always having to rush in a panic to give you what you want.

What’s worse, it can also cause confusion. That’s because ASAP means different things to different people. Employees faced with an “ASAP assignment” may not know whether that means they should instantly drop whatever they’re doing to complete the project or whether they should squeeze it into their already busy schedule and just do their best.

If you really need something done by a certain date, say so. Explain your timetable to your employees and confirm that they have enough time to get the job done. Direct their attention to a calendar as you discuss the deadline. After they agree to finish the work by the date you’ve proposed, add it to the calendar and post it for all to see.

In rare cases, however, it’s actually wise to instruct staffers to work on a project ASAP—especially if you want to test your employees’ judgment or their ability to prioritize under pressure. You can say, “Our biggest client wants an update on our report ASAP. Please get right on it.” You can then assess to what extent they can handle multiple tasks and determine what to do first.

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